Sociology of Deviance September 14 th(570)
Why do we study deviance?
⁃ Who makes rules? Who upholds order?
⁃ Who is labeled deviant?
The study of deviance is about social control.
1) The Vicarious Experience
- Living through someone else.
- Excitement, seeing the world through a deviant other
- Desire to step out of the box
- How has our culture made this a habit? The media, reality tv.
- Example, that one friend who is a little wild....
- However, it can distort our understanding of deviance, and focus on the one
in a million, the serial killers for example.
(Historically sociology focuses on the outsider example: prostitutes)
⁃ Deviance is not marginalized. It is not far away from the general
- Study to change policy.
- Make your community better
- Understand why bad things happen
-Study of deviance often comes from personal experience or personal pain. John
Walsh- hosts Americas most wanted because his son Adam was kidnapped and
⁃ Change people’s minds about what is deviant. Advocate for reform.
⁃ Taking away the deviant label from a group of people. Ex 80s
movement for HIV
⁃ Conflict that comes with social change... those people are often labeled
⁃ Change moral rhetoric, ex prohibition
⁃ There is usually someone who will gain from labeling something
3) Self protection and sophistication
- Makes people feel safer and smarter
- Read the book “the gift of fear” by Gavin Debecker - behavior analysis,
teaches people how to use instincts to survive
- Also can teach you to keep yourself safe as mentioned in previous book
- Learn some things are not as scary as we are told they are
- “Real” threat instead of moral panic
4) Understanding Oneself and Others
- Some people enjoy being deviant even once in a while, ex Halloween,
- Learn from others; make your own choices clearer
5) Intellectual Curiosity - Want to know why people do what they do
- Try to learn what happens behind the facade – When authorities want to
seem effective, they may hide evidence of deviance, but when they want to
justify new or greater controls, they may maximize or even invent deviance.
Deviants often develop camouflages to avoid detection, to make others afraid
of them, or to create social space in which they can operate undisturbed.
Such shadowy space becomes a setting for illusions and misunderstandings,
which are not easily corrected without extensive, controlled, and repeated
- Standpoint “Coined by Canadian sociologist Dorothy Smith” is everything
about you. Age, gender, culture, experience, religion. Ones standpoint depicts
how we interpret the world.
Academic Views of Deviance
⁃ Prior to the 1960s academics focused on “outsiders”, mental illness, drug
⁃ Because they were easy to access. They lacked power.
⁃ If you hold power in society, you are less likely to be affected by its rules.
⁃ Deviance for a long time was considered absolute. It was inherent in an
Study of Deviance: Objective/ Subjective Dichotomy
Objective Characteristics of Deviance
- Methods used to study the natural world can be used to study humans,
society (However, people are not the same as the natural world. Humans
have an Imagination)
- Value neutral social science (Deviant labels are never objective because
someone who has something to gain often makes them)
- Statistics think of Criminal stats
- Use methods of the social sciences
- Think of Criminal minds. The idea is that they can catch the criminal
because they can predict their behavior. Universal laws.
- Reality is out there to be discovered
- Associated with Positivism (explain, predict, control)
- Structural Functionalism
- Ignores human agency (ignores individuality)
- Assumes there is something inherent
- Scientific method, questionnaires
- The goal is to find something inherent in a person, behavior, or
characteristic that is necessarily deviant. Something is present in every case.
Most frequently citied as deviant definitions: 1. Statistical rarity not common in academia but is popular in everyday
language. If a behavior or characteristic is not typical, then it is deviant. Some
times it is not rare but it is hidden.
2. HarmfulnessIt is often supposed that deviance is distinctively harmful.
Physical and Emotional Harm are the easiest to demonstrate.
Functional Harm – harms the way a system works. Think Anarchy.
Ontological Harm – harm in the faith of a system, fear or chaos that comes
with challenging a system. Think about Galileo challenging the cycle of the
sun and the system of the church.
However, Harm does not distinguish deviance in 3 ways.
1) Harm can be exaggerated or fabricated ex reefer madness. 2)
Sometimes the greatest harm of deviance comes at the cost of its
suppression. Ex. Post 9/11 airport security and 1920s prohibition
(which just drove it underground)
3) Cost of prevention can be huge. Think security at the Olympics.
Many things labeled as deviant are less harmful than things not so labeled.
Think corporate crime.
3. Norm Violation Formal and Informal violation of norms (Folkways and
mores) constitutes deviance. On the surface this seems like a good way to
define deviance, except we violate norms everyday, we stray from the
conduct that is given tour social statuses.
4. Social Reaction Deviance is sometimes defined in terms of the social
response it evokes. For example if being cross-eyed produces negative
reactions from others, we could (a