CHP8 – CONFORMITY, DEVIANCE, AND CRIME
- Social control – techniques and strategies for preventing deviant human behavior in any society; occurs
on all levels of society
- Sanctions – penalties and rewards for conduct concerning a social norm. Failure to live up to norms may
result in informal sanctions such as fear or ridicule, or formal sanctions such as jail sentences or fines.
o Functionalists say people must respect social norms in order for any group or society to survive.
Conflict theorists say that resistance to social norms is necessary to enforce change
- Stanley Milgram
o Conformity – going along with peers – individuals of our own status who have no special right to
direct our behavior.
o Obedience – compliance with higher authorities in a hierarchical structure.
Shock test – Milgram had volunteers be the ‘teacher‘ whereas an associate of Milgram’s
was the ‘ learner.’ If the learner answered a question wrong, the teacher had to ‘shock’
the learner – who would pretend to be in pain from the shock. The more the learner
answered incorrectly, the higher the intensity of the ‘shock.’ Almost two thirds of the
participants continued to shock the learner – falling into the category of ‘obedient
Key to obedience was the experimenter’s social role as a “scientist” and
“seeker of knowledge.” Milgram pointed out that we’re accustomed to
submitting to impersonal authority figures whose status is indicated by a title
or by a uniform – we view the authority as larger and more important than the
individual so we shift responsibility for our behavior to the authority figure
Important to interactionists that as the subjects were physically closer to the
learner, they were less likely to inflict shocks
- Informal social control – carried out casually by ordinary people through such means as laughter, smiles,
- Formal social control – carried out by authorized agents, such as police officers, judges, school
administrators, and employers
o Interplay between formal and informal social control can be complicated, especially if people are
encouraged to violate social norms
- Law – governmental social control
o Creation of law is a social process because they are passed in response to a perceived need for
formal social control. It reflects continually changing standards of what is right and wrong, how
violations are to be determined, and what sanctions are to be applied.
- Socialization is the primary source of conforming and obedient behavior, including obedience to law. We
internalize social norms as valid and desirable and are committed to observing them. We want to see
ourselves and be seen as loyal, cooperative, responsible, respectful.
- Case Study: Binge Drinking – on one hand, regarded as deviant for violating standards of conduct
expected of those in an academic setting. Other hand, binge drinking represents conformity to the peer
culture (esp in sororities and fraternities)which serve as social centres
- Control Theory – our connection to members of society leads us to systematically conform to society’s
norms. Socialization develops our self-control so well that we don’t need further pressure to obey social
- Deviance – behavior that violates the standards of conduct or expectations of a group or societies.
Involves the violation of group norms. Subject to social definition within a particular society and at a
o Those with the greatest status and power also have the power to deviantize – define what is
acceptable and what is deviant. Those marginalized by society have no power and aren’t able to
participate in “deviantizing” because they are labeled as deviants themselves.
o Once one has been assigned to be a deviant, they have trouble presenting a positive image. Stigma – label used to devalue members of certain social groups
Often people are stigmatized for deviant behaviors they may no longer engage
in. ex recovering alcoholic. Goffman – stigma symbol that discredits one’s
identity such as a conviction for child molestation.
o Deviance is complex because sometimes is trivial, sometimes harmful. Sometimes accepted by
society, sometimes rejected.
Functionalists say deviance is common to human existence, with positive and negative
Durkheim – punishments established within a culture help to define acceptable
behavior and thus contribute to stability. If improper acts weren’t sanctioned,
people might stretch their standards of what constitutes appropriate conduct.
Anomie – loss of direction felt in a society when social control of individual
behavior has become ineffective
Merton’s Strain Theory – when people don’t have the resources to achieve the
cultural goal (success in terms of money), they experience strain and some turn
to deviant means to resolve their situations.
o In a society with emphasis on wealth as a symbol of success, people
adapt by either conforming to or deviating from cultural expectations.
Anomie Theory of Deviance -
Mode Institutionalized Means Societal Goal
(Hard Work) (Acquisition of Wealth)
Conformity accept Accept
Innovation Reject accept
Ritualism Accept Reject
Retreatism reject Reject
Rebellion Replace with new means Replace with new goals
Innovator – accepts goals of society but pursues them with improper
Ritualist – abandoned goal of material success and becomes
compulsively committed to the institutionalized means. (work
becomes a way of life instead of means to success
Retreatist – withdrawn from both the goals and means of society
Rebel – feels alienated from the dominant means and goals, and may
seek a dramatically different social order
Interactionist Perspective – explanations of crime:
1.) Cultural Transmission (Edwin Sutherland) – one learns criminal behavior by
interacting with others. We learn how to behave in social situations, whether
properly or improperly.
o Differential association – exposure to attitudes favorable to criminal
acts lead to the violation of rules. Social interaction increases a
person’s motivation to engage in deviant behavior
o People are more likely to engage in norm-defying behavior if they are
part of a group or subculture that stresses deviant values
2.) Routine Activities Theory (Cohen and Felson) – criminal victimization
increases when motivated offenders and suitable targets converge. Ex you’re
thirsty and you see and unlocked car with water inside = steal it
3.) Labelling Theory or Societal-Reaction Approach – an approach to deviance
that attempts to explain why certain people are viewed as deviants while
others engaged in the same behavior are not. o Because of social class distinction!
o Agents such as teachers, employers, police officers play a significant
role in creating the deviant identity by designating certain people as
deviants and not others. Some individuals and groups have the
POWER to define labels and apply them to others. Example – racial
o Social Constructionist Perspective – deviance is the product of the
culture we live in.
Conflict Theory – people with power protect their own interests and define deviance to
suit their own needs.
[Quinney] crime is the definition of conduct created by authorized agents of
social control in a politically organized society. Lawmaking is often an attempt
by the powerful to coerce others into their own morality
Criminal justice system in Canada treats everyone differently based on racial,
ethnic, or social-class background
o Differential justice – differences in the way social control is exercised
over different groups
Functionalist – deviants reflect cultural norms. Conflict & labeling theorists – powerful
groups in society can shape laws and standards and determine who is deviant
Double standards or gendered norms – women are expected to act feminine,
gentle, and maternal as according to their gender role, and as well are
expected to hold certain roles in society and not deviate from either one.
Control of Patriarchy – social system in which males dominate females and in
which masculinity is more valued than femininity. Controls women’s bodies and
minds, and sets in place oppressive social institutions in order to maintain
o Gender plays a large part in the context and outcomes of violence.
Females are usually those experiencing sexual assault and criminal
Approach Theoretical Perspective Proponents Emphasis
Anomie Functionalist Emile Durkheim Adaptation to societal
Robert Merton norms
Cultural Transmission / Interactionalist Edwin Sutherland Patterns learned through
Differential Association others
Routine Activities Interactionalist Marcus Felson Impact of the social
Lawrence Cohen environment
Labelling / Social Interactionalist Howard Becker Societal response to acts
Conflict Conflict Karl Marx Dominance by authorized
Richard Quinney agents Discretionary
Feminist Conflict / Feminist Elizabeth Comack Gendered social norms
Carol LaPrairie Control of Patriarchy
- Crime – violation of criminal law for which some governmental authority applies formal penalties.
Represents deviation from formal social norms administered by the state
o Victimless crimes – willing exchange among adults of widely desired, but illegal, goods and
services such as prostitution
o Professional criminal – one who pursues crime as a day-to-day occupation, developing skilled
techniques and enjoying a certain degree of status among other criminals o Organized crime – criminal organization for the purpose of committing one or more serious
offences, which brings about material reward to the group or the members of it; serves as a
means of upward mobility for groups of people struggling to escape poverty
o White-Collar Crime - illegal acts committed in the course of business activities, often by
respectable people. (Technology-Based Crime is on the rise as a new type of white-collar crime)
Corporate crimes – any act by a corporation that is punishable by the government.
Conflict theorists say that criminal justice system disregards crimes of the affluent,
focusing on the crime committed by the poor.
o Transnational Crime – occurs across multiple national borders. (ex slavery, insurance fraud,
computer crime, illegal drug trade)
- Victimization surveys – given to a sample of the population to determine whether people have been
victims of crime. Fear of victimization is higher in women than men.
o Aboriginals and visible minorities more likely to say that police weren’t doing a good job
- International crime rates – increase in violent crime evident in Western societies. Developing nations have
significant rates of reported homicide.
Chapter 9 – Stratification and Social Mobility in Canada
- Social inequality – condition in which members of society have differing amounts of wealth, prestige, or
- Stratification – structured ranking of entire groups of people that perpetuates unequal economic rewards
and power in a society – ex distribution of wealth and income. Involves the ways in which one generation
passes on social inequalities to the next, producing groups of people arranged in rank order
o Income – salaries and wages
o Wealth – encompassing one’s material assets, including land, stocks, and other times of
- Meritocracy – individuals earn their place in society
- Ascribed status – social position assigned to a person by society without regard for the person’s unique
talents or characteristics such as one’s race
- Achieved status – social position one attains largely through their own efforts, such as level of education
- Systems of Stratification
o Slavery – a system of enforced servitude in which some people are owned by other people (some
are treated as property)
o Castes – hereditary ranks that are usually religiously dictated, and tend to be fixed and immobile.
(ascribed status) (determined at birth)
o Estate System – peasants required to work land leased to them by nobles in exchange for military
protection and other services (feudalism) (based on inheritance)
o Social Classes (Class System) – social ranking based primarily on economic position in which
achieved characteristics can influence social mobility; boundaries imprecisely defined, and one
can move from one level to another. Heavily dependent on family and ascribed factors such as
race and ethnicity. Income inequality is a basic characteristic.
Upper and lower classes reflect importance of ascribed and achieved status. Ascribed
statuses such as race clearly influence one’s wealth and social position. The disabled
tend to occupy the lower rung of the occupation
Upper middle class – professionals who participate extensively in politics and
take leadership roles in voluntary associations
Lower middle class – less affluent professionals (nurses, teachers), owners of
small businesses. Goal of sending children to university
Working class – people who hold regular manual or blue-collar jobs. This class
is declining because of a rise in service+technical jobs
o Shrinking Middle Class article – Canada is moving toward a ‘bipolar
income distribution’ – broadly based middle class is slowly being replaced by two growing groups of rich and poor (the rich get richer,
the poor get poorer)
- Marx’s View of Class Differentiation
o Social relations depends on who controls the primary mode of economic production. Differential
access to scarce resources shape the relationship between groups.
Capitalism – economic system where the means of production are held largely in private
hands and the main incentive for economic activity is the accumulation of profits
Bourgeoisie – capitalist class, comprising the owners of the means of
production; maximizes profit in competition while exploiting workers who must
exchange their labor for subsistence wages
Proletariat – working class
Exploitation of proletariat will lead to destruction of the capitalist system
because the workers will revolt
o Class consciousness must be developed – awareness of common
vested interests and the need for collective political action to bring
about social change
o False consciousness must be overcome – attitude held by members of
a class that does not accurately reflect their objective position
Example – false consciousness = worker thinks he’s the one
being exploited by his boss. Class consciousness = worker
thinks all workers are being exploited by the bourgeoisie
- Max Weber’s View of Stratification – no single characteristic totally defines a person’s position – 3 distinct
components of stratification (actions of individuals and groups cannot be understood solely in economic
o Class – group of people who have a similar level of wealth and income
Status Group – people who have the same prestige or lifestyle; one gains status through
membership in a desirable group ex medical profession
o Power – ability to exercise one’s will over others
o Each of us has three ranks in society. Our position in a stratification system reflects a
combination of class, status, power.
Status Consistency – notion that someone with high status in one area – ex income – is
likely to be similarly ranked in other areas
- Symbolic Interactionist View – importance of social class in shaping a person’s lifestyle
o Those at the top of the hierarchy convert part of their wealth into conspicuous consumption,
purchasing more than can be reasonably used / occupied. OR conspicuous leisure – travelling to
another destination just for leisure
o Behavior that is judged to be typical of the lower class is subject to ridicule + legal action
o Even everyday language differentiates social class position
- Stratification is universal – all societies maintain a form of inequality among members
o Functionalists say that a differential system of rewards and punishm