Sociology 1020 Deviance Note
Deviance: the recognized violation of cultural norms. Sociology looks at the structural
causes of deviance.
Problem with this Definition
• Objective view: presence of certain characteristics defines deviance
• Subjective view: no shared, observable characteristics defines what or who is
deviant. A behaviour or an act becomes deviant when it is socially defined as one.
Deviance Defined: It’s Difficult
Objectivists (or “Moral Absolutists”)
• Statistical Rarity: though criteria – what counts as a “rare” percentage?
• Societal Harm: physical or emotional harm to individuals or harm to the social
order. For example, smoking causes harm to the individual, but spray-painting
causes harm to the society.
• Societal Reaction
• Normative Violation
Subjectivists (or “Moral Relativist”)
• Social typing process:
o Description: placing a label on someone who looks deviant
o Evaluation: taking the label and placing a judgment on it. Making a good
or a bad evaluation.
o Prescription: social control.
▪ Preventative Social Control: prevents people from being deviant.
• Formal: people who can actually do something – e.g. police
psychiatrists, profs – people who will give warnings.
• Informal: parents, peers, and coworkers.
▪ Retroactive: Comes after the deviance has already been done.
• Formal: a cop arresting someone, or psychiatrists admitting
someone to a mental institution, or a prof failing a student.
• Informal: parents grounding their children, coworkers
Attempts by society to regulate people’s thoughts and behaviours.
Social Control Theory
Hirschi: all people are potential deviants. It asks, “why don’t people deviate?”
• Deviance is deterred by…
Stability and consensus are key. Anomie leads to deviance.
• Deviance = eufunction – accommodate (“acceptable deviance”) 2 DEVIANCE
• Deviance = dysfunction – ‘fix’
Functions of Devainace?
• Unite people
• Moral holiday
• Provide scapegoats
• Sets moral boundaries
• Mark bottom layer of society
• Warning sign
• Social change
Anomie: a feeling of normless or an absence of social
regulation of behaviour,
• Merton adds non-achievement causes anomie.
• Differential opportunity – seeking through
• Sutherland’s Differential Association: Whom you hang out with – people learn
and define deviance in groups. If it’s rewarded, it’ll be repeated.
o Based on frequency, priority, duration and intensity of face to face
relations with significant others.
• We learn to be deviant the same way we learn to conform.
Sykes and Matza
Delinquents feel guilty, but will rationalize their behaviour using five techniques:
1. Condemn Condemners – e.g. “Everyone steals. Why pick on me? If I don’t do it
to him, he’ll do it to me!”
2. Blame Victim – e.g. “He has it coming! She talked back! He has a bad attitude!”
3. Deny Responsibility – e.g. “They made me do it! I don’t have a choice! It’s either
me or him!”
4. Deny Injury – e.g. “They have insurance! They have too much money! What’s
one CD to a big store?”
5. Appeal to higher loyalties – e.g. “He is a stranger! Only cowards run away! I have
to protect my buddies!”
The process by which the label ‘deviant’ becomes attached to some individuals and some
forms of behaviour.
• Not the behaviour, but the audiences reaction that determines whether an act is
deviant or not.
Primary Deviance – Lemert
• Non-conformist acts which occur before a formal or legal response to the
Secondary Deviance – Lemert Sociology 1020 Deviance Note
• Behaviour that occurs after primary deviance and results from the transformation
of an individual’s self-concept from someone who simply did something “bad,” to
someone who sees themselves as “bad.”
• Deviance amplification: the belief that reacting to deviance may increase
deviance and could lead to more serious forms of deviance – when someone is