C hapter 7
Deviance, Conformity and Social Control
I. Why focus on the People’s Republic of China?
A. It represents an interesting case for studying issues of deviance, conformity,
and social control.
B. In China from 1966 to 1976, during the period known as the Cultural
Revolution, many behaviors constituted deviance and could elicit
interrogation, arrest, and punishment.
II. Deviance, Conformity, and Social Control
A. Core Concept 1: The only characteristic common to all forms of deviance
is that some social audience challengesaondemns a behavior or an
appearance because it departs from established norms.
1. Deviance - any behavior or physical appearance that is socially
challenged or condemned because it departs from the norms and
expectations of a group
2. Conformity - behaviors and appearances that follow and maintain the
standards of a group; also the acceptance of the cultural goals and the
pursuit of those goals through means defined as legitimate.
3. Social control - methods used to teach, persuade, or force a group’s
members, and even nonmembers, to comply with and not deviate from
its norms and expectations
4. Almost every behavior has, at some time, qualified as deviant or
5. It is difficult to generate a precise list of deviant behaviors and
a. Behaviors that some consider deviant may not be considered
deviant by others.
b. Behaviors considered deviant at one time and place may not be
considered deviant at another.
B. Deviance: The Violation of Norms
1. Core Concept 2: Ideally, conformity is voluntary. When socialization
fails to produce conformity, other mechanisms of social control—
sanctions, censorship, or surveillance—may be used to convey and
2. Norms give order and predictability to life, and some norms are
considered more important than others. There are two kinds of norms.
a. Folkways are customary ways of handling the routine matters of
b. Mores are norms that people define as essential to the well-being
of their group.
72 Chapter 7
i. People who violate mores are usually punished severely.
ii. Unlike folkways, mores are considered unchangeable and are
regarded as “the only way” and “the truth.”
C. Socialization as a Means of Social Control
1. Socialization - the process by which most people come to learn the
ways of their culture and accept them as natural
2. All societies establish mechanisms of social control to ensure
D. Mechanisms of Social Control
1. Sanctions—reactions of approval or disapproval to others’ behavior or
a. Positive sanction - an expression of approval and a reward for
b. Negative sanction - an expression of disapproval for
c. Sanctions can be formal or informal.
i. Informal sanctions - spontaneous, unofficial expressions of
approval or disapproval that are not backed by the force of law
ii. Formal sanctions - expressions of approval or disapproval
backed by laws, rules, or policies that specify (usually in
writing) the conditions under which people should be rewarded
or punished and the procedures for allocating rewards and
E. Censorship and Surveillance
1. Censorship - a method of preventing information from reaching an
2. Surveillance - A mechanism of social control that involves watching
and otherwise monitoring the movements, activities, conversations,
and associations of people to prevent them from engaging in
wrongdoing; to catch those who are engaged in wrong doing; and to
ensure that the public is protected from wrongdoers.
3. Disciplinary society - A social arrangement that normalizes
surveillance, making it expected and routine.
III. The Functionalist Perspective
A. Core Concept 3: It is impossible for a society to exist without deviance.
Always and everywhere, there will be some behaviors or appearances that
offend collective sentiments.
B. Émile Durkheim (1901) argued that although definitions of what constitutes
deviance vary by place, it is present in all societies.
1. Deviance has an important function in society for, at least, two
a. The ritual of identifying and exposing the wrongdoing,
determining a punishment, and carrying it out is an emotional
experience that binds together the members of a group and
establishes a sense of community.
b. Deviance is functional because it helps bring about necessary
change and helps prepare people for change.
II. Labeling Theory
73 Deviance, Conformity and Social Control
A. Core Concept 4: Labeling theorists maintain that an act is deviant when
people notice it and then take action to label it as a violation and apply
B. Labeling theorists are guided by two assumptions:
1. Rules are socially constructed. Because definitions of deviant
behavior vary across time and place, people must decide what is
2. Rules are not enforced uniformly or consistently. Some people break
rules and escape detection, whereas others are treated as offenders
even though they have broken no rules.
C. Labeling theorists maintain that whether an act is deviant depends on whether
people notice it and, if they do notice it, on whether they label it as a violation
of a rule and, subsequently, apply sanctions.
D. Labeling theorists suggest that for every rule a social group creates, four
categories of people exist.
1. Conformists - people who have not violated the rules of a group and
are treated accordingly
2. Pure deviants - people who have broken the rules and are caught,
punished, and labeled as outsiders
3. Secret deviants - people who have broken the rules but whose
violation goes unnoticed or if it is noticed, prompts those who notice it
to look the other way, rather than report the violation.
4. The f alsely accused are people who have not broken the rules but are
treated as if they have.
E. The Falsely Accused
1. People are likely to be falsely accused of a crime when the well-being
of a country or a group is threatened. Th