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Chapter 9.docx


Department
Political Science
Course Code
POLS 3470
Professor
Tim Mau

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SOC*1100 Sociology: 8TH Canadian Ed., Macionis & Gerber
Chapter 9 – Deviance
-Society teaches us all to conform – law is simply one part of a complex system of social control
What Is Deviance?
-Deviance – the recognized violation of cultural norms (which guide almost all human activities
– so concept is quite broad)
-Crime is one category – the violation of a society’s formally enacted criminal law
-Examples of nonconformity are negative instances of rule breaking (such as stealing, assault),
but we also define especially righteous people (such as students we consider “geeks”) as
deviant
-Deviant attitudes thus have in common some element of “difference” that causes us to think of
the person as an outsider
Social Control attempts by society to regulate people’s thoughts and behaviour
-e.g. may involve parent’s scolding their children
-Or may involve the criminal justice system – a formal response by police, courts, and prison
officials to alleged violations of the law
-Deviance is much more than a matter of individual choice – involves how our society is
organized
Biological Context
-Most people incorrectly used to assume that criminal behaviour came from biological instincts
(e.g. did criminals all have small foreheads, or were they all muscular?) – NO
-Today, research has shown that genetic factors (e.g. defective genes) TOGETHER with
environmental factors (e.g. early abuse) were strong predictors of adult crime and violence (but
mostly environment)
Personality Factors
-Deviance can be viewed as ‘unsuccessful’ socialization
-Containment Theory – a theory by Dinitz & Reckless (classical researchers) that suggested
staying out of trouble was related to controlling deviant impulses (e.g. having a strong
conscience as a boy may relate to less chance of crime)
*Biological/Personality Factors view deviance as a trait of individuals – but wrongdoing is also
largely a function of society – seen below
Social Foundations of Deviance – 3 social foundations
1. Deviance varies according to cultural norms
-No thought or action is inherently deviant, it becomes deviant only in relation to particular
norms
-life patterns and culture differ across a nation and the world
2. People become deviant as others define them that way
-Everyone violates cultural norms at one point in time or another (e.g. everyone has laughed by
themselves in public!)
3. Both norms and the way in which people define rule breaking involve social power
-The law, as defined by Karl Marx, is the means by which powerful people protect their interests
-e.g. if a homeless person speaks out against government, it is ‘disturbing the peace’, if
a mayoral candidate does the exact same thing, he gets police protection
Functions of Deviance – Structural-Functional Theories

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Durkheim’s Basic Insight
-Said that deviance is perfectly normal part of society – performs 4 essential functions:
1. Deviance affirms cultural values and normsANY definition of virtue rests on an
opposing idea of vice (i.e. cannot define good without having evil)
2. Responding to deviance clarifies moral boundaries – by defining boundaries, we
define right and wrong
3. Responding to serious deviance brings people together – e.g. after a shooting
4. Deviance encourages social change may push a society’s boundaries,
suggesting alternatives and encouraging change
-Durkheim wrote:
-“The perfect and upright man judges his smallest failings with a severity that the
majority reserve for acts more truly in the nature of an offence” – i.e. even in a
completely ‘perfect’ society, anything that is ‘near-perfect’ will still be classified as
deviance
Merton’s Strain Theory
-Society can be set up in a way that encourages deviance – the extent and type of deviance
people engage in depend on whether a society provides the means (such as schooling and
jobs) to achieve cultural goals (such as wealth and prestige)
-Strain in this culture encourage innovation (using unconventional means (e.g. street crime) to
achieve a culturally approved goal (e.g. wealth)), ritualism (rigidly sticking to the conventional
means in order to feel respectable), retreatism (rejection of cultural goals – dropping out),
rebellion (going one step further from retreatism by forming counterculture)
Deviant Subcultures
-Deviance or conformity arises from the relative opportunity structure that frames a person’s life
-Deviance may take the form of conflict subcultures (e.g. armed street gangs), or retreatist
subcultures (e.g. skid rows – drop-outs that abuse substances)
-Delinquency (minor crime) is most common among lower-class youths as they may not have
an opportunity to achieve conventional success and seek self-respect by being a “somebody” in
their neighbourhood
*All above are Structural-Functional theories – everyone who breaks important rules will be
labelled deviant – actually much more complex (seen below through other theories)
Labeling Deviance – Symbolic-Interaction Theories
Labelling Theory the idea that deviance and conformity result not so much from what people
do as from how others respond to those actions
Primary and secondary deviance
-Primary – provoke slight reactions from others and have little effect on a
person’s self-concept (e.g. underage drinking)
-Secondary – response to primary deviance – others notice deviance and make
something of it (e.g. excluding an alcohol abuser)
-Labelling can thus hurt, ultimately
Stigma – a powerfully negative label that greatly changes a person’s self-concept and
social identity (e.g. smoker)
-Acts as a master status, overpowering other aspects of social identity
Retrospective and Projective Labelling
-After stigmatizing, may engage in retrospective labellinginterpreting
someone’s past in light of present deviance
-Projective labelling – a deviant identity is used to predict future action
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