Sociology 2259 Lecture Notes - Informal Social Control, Homeostasis, Determinism

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9 Feb 2013
Theories of Deviance
The sociology of deviance employs a RANGE of theories in explaining deviance:
1. General sociological theories
2. Specifically criminological theories
3. Interdisciplinary theories
Deviance theories can further broken down into 3 main categories:
1. Positivist—more in line with the objective view of deviance (something recognizable)
2. Interpretive—more subjective (look at individual)
3. Critical—examines “why” this exists and why we react to it in a certain way
*There can be overlap between categories—but are often looked at distinctly
Positivism & Determinism
Scientific methods are used to study human/social behaviour
Are objective/recognizable traits attached to deviance
Positivism follows the idea of “social determinism”
By focusing on the biology you can pin point, control, and prevent it (these ideas dominant until
about 1950`s)
According to positivist scholar, deviance has biological/evolutionary roots, and criminals are
physically/psychologically different non-criminals
ex. body types, skull shape and size, facial features, ect.
“Deviants” possess commonalities
Understanding these traits will help us understand the causes of deviance
Gives precedence to biological explanations of deviance:
Doesn't focus on “free will”--focuses on biological/inherited traits (“natural”)
Biological fitness
Born criminal (Lombroso, Sheldon)
“Born Criminal/Deviant”
Lombroso (1835-1909): criminal/deviant individuals are primitive human beings (“modern
savages”, “biological throwbacks”)
Low intelligence, animal instinct
Resemble “caveman” (large forehead, protruding ears, shifty eyes. Ect)
Sheldon (1898-1977) body types correspond to criminal/deviant tendencies
(he talks more about crime that involves physical abilities)
Endomorph: fat/round-->easy going
Mesomorph: stocky/muscular-->criminal/deviant tendency
Ectomorph: long/skinny-->sensitive
A lot of positivism and determinism theories looked at men for deviance and hardly/not at all on
Another limitation is that they are looking at men that commit specific types of crime (only
using a sample size)
Determinism & the Church
People who committed crime were thought to be acting on the devil
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These idea put forth by the church
The devil made me do it!
Neither the individual/society has to take responsibility
Creates objective rules for identifying criminals—ascribed traits (things they were born
Church used a biological trait as being a demonic trait
*Focus on ASCRIBED traits
Formal and informal social control of witches:
Formal: codified rules for identifying and eliminating
Informal: word of mouth
Classical Theory
Define people who are criminal or deviant based on free will—free actors that choose to engage
in deviance/crime
5 elements of classical theory
1. People are hedonistic—
Self indulgent/selfish—humans seek to maximize pleasure/minimize pain
2. Individuals have free will
3. Society is a social contract
People have certain amounts of freedom and we decide the extent o which we
want to give up our freedom for the better of society
4. Punishment is justified
5. The greatest good for the greater number
1. Society has certain rules/norms and people behave in certain behaviour so that the
society will benefit the most amount of people
*Emphasis on the RATIONALITY of the behaviour—“Rational Actor”
Started looking at deviance starting from society—looks at from a macro level instead of micro
Beginning of sociological explanations of deviance
Looks at how individuals behave in a society or as a society as a whole
How does society create situations in which deviance occurs
It exists because it serves a purpose in society
Looks at how external factors influence behaviours in society—every part of society is
interdependent on each other
Role of society: consensus, equilibrium, status quo (homeostasis)
Role of individual: perfectly socialized unit
We should be properly socialized
Institutions should socialize us properly—if/when this fails the improperly socialized person
is deviant
Deviance: incomplete/problematic socialization
Solution: re-socialization, treated, and rehabilitated
*Focus on changing the individual, NOT the society
Crime is a normal part of collective life
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Crime and deviance is normal when there is a social conscience
Demonstrates what the norms are in society
Even if we don't say what is deviant we still have an idea of it because it is normal to know
what is and is not acceptable
**Gons applied eufunctions and dysfunctions
Durkheim's work addressed deviance mainly in 2 ways:
1. Eufuntions: A certain level of deviance is functional for the maintaining the social
order/status quo. Depends on certain levels of deviance—are certain levels of deviance
that is good for society.
2. Dysfunctions: However, at some point deviance may become dysfunctional for society,
therefore disrupting the status quo. This is when a type of deviance affect a large amount
of people (ex. 9/11 is a dysfunction compared to a smaller terrorist attack).
Positive functions of deviance in society that help maintain equilibrium (Gons came up with
1. Increases social solidarity—people coming together (ex. Neighbourhood watch) and
gives rise to the collective conscience
2. Rule/boundary clarification—we need to know what is deviant to understand what is not
deviant. Deterrence (can be individuals and/or as a society—clarifies what the
rules are—ex. laws)
3. Testing of rules/boundaries—when deviance occurs we can test out how strong those
boundaries are (ex. Homosexuals used to be deviant and people fought against
that and changed it)
4. Reduces social tensions:
Scapegoat—it can be something for society to focus on to deflect from
something else happening in society
Tension release—can be used to let off steam (ex. Getting drunk in the middle of
the day—like St. Patrick's day or Halloween)
What do you think?
Why does prostitution flourish so universally?
Functions to keep society together
Serves as an outlet for people to get a sexual release without hurting someone (rape for sex)
What are some behaviours defined as “deviant” that flourish in our society despite their label as
Violent video games, gambling, riots, gang membership, porn, ect.
In groups of 4-5 come up with some examples and apply Durkheim's 4 “Euphunctions”
Negative functions of deviance in society that disrupts equilibrium (Gons)--these are not the
only ones that exist:
1. Reduces internalization of norms—ex. So many people are doing drugs—politicians say
that drugs are negatively effective too many people
2. Difficulty in determining effective solutions—when there are so many people engaging
in a certain behaviour it will be difficult to prevent these people from engaging in
the behaviour (ex. Underage drinking—can't really prevent it as a whole)
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