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First Semester Deviance Notes.docx

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Dorothy Pawluch

Deviance Notes – First Semester Readings: September 9 – 18 : Chapter one. Chapter one Objective/Subjective Dichotomy – Objectivist approach  Defining deviance used to be a simple task. o Criminality. Now researchers are moving toward a broader notion of deviance  overweight people and welfare recipients.  The term “normal” can be used to describe a person who is non-deviant or also referring to a behaviour or person that conforms.  So a deviant person can be seen as an individual who is non-conforming or not normal (not the norm).  Objective views of deviance claim that the presence of certain characteristics defines deviance; that is, behaviours or people with those characteristics are deviant, and those lacking such characteristics are normal.  Subjective views of deviance claim that there is no shared, observable characteristic that can clearly tell us who or what is deviant, and who or what is normal. Instead, someone must tell us who is deviant in Canadian society.  Objectivism: Deviance as an act. o The traits that have been most frequently postulated include statistical rarity, harm, negative societal reaction, and a normative violation.  Statistical rarity (objective side): if a behaviour or characteristic is not typical, it is deviant. Problems with this? How we define „rare‟ presents a problem. There are some behaviours that are not statistically rare, but still perceived as being unacceptable in the larger society, and are subjected to control efforts. Lastly, some things that are statistically rare (like being left handed) are not considered deviant.  Harm (objective): If an action causes harm, then it is deviant. I.e. physical harm and emotional harm  Harm may be directed not at a human being, but at society itself; I.e. certain behaviours or people may constitute social harm because they interfere with the smooth running of society as a whole, i.e. criminals. o Finally harm may be directed at something far more abstract and ethereal than a person or society; harm may occur in the form of a threat to the way we understand the world and our place in it. E.g. Abstract notion of harm: a Muslim women does not cover her head, she may be seen by other Muslims as threatening their belief system  Societal Reaction (objective): People may respond to others in a variety of ways. If the responses in societies „masses‟ are primarily negative (such as dislike, anger, hatred, stigmatization, and teasing) rather than positive (like admiration), then the person or act being responded to is deviant. Seeing this negative social evaluation enables us to determine who or what is deviant. o Many questions. Why does society react negatively to some actions, characteristics, or people? Whose reaction counts? How many individuals negative reactions must exist before we can say that „society‟ is reacting negatively?  Normative Violation (objective): A characteristic or behaviour is deviant if it violates norms. o This general statement is shared between objectivists and subjectivists, however, the manner in which normative violation is integrated into a definition of deviance varies among deviant specialists working in the various approaches. o Objectivist: norms now are perceived as culturally specific rather than universal and people who violate the norms of the society they live in are seen as deviant. o “Absolute moral order”  Norms as standards or expectations of behaviour, can refer to informal, everyday behaviours, such as rules of etiquette, choice of clothing, and behaviours in the college classroom. These kinds of informal behaviour are also referred to as folkways.  Mores are those standards that are often seen as the foundation of morality in a culture, such as prohibitions of incest or homosexuality. If you violate these norms, you may be thought of as immoral or even evil. These are also formal behaviours.  In a given society, the majority of citizens agree upon norms. However, deviance specialists working in the subjective side of the objective/subjective dualism find this view of social norms problematic.  Given the multiplicity of individuals, groups, and sets of expectations that coexist in a society, normative consensus is difficult to determine.  Some deviance specialists agree that “the agreed upon norms of society can be found in its criminal law”. For example: prostitution, white collar crimes, gang behaviour, homicide, etc. But this is not always the case. Look at marijuana. The majority of citizens and police boards, the Canadian Centre on Substance abuse, etc. believe it should be decriminalized. In this case, the „consensus‟ seems to contradict the law rather than support it.  The Consensual View of Law, wherein the law is perceived as arising out of social consensus and then equally applied to all, is one of the possible views of crime and law.  Criminologists who utilize conflict law perceive the law as a tool used by the ruling class to serve its own interests, and believe that the law is more likely to be applied to the powerless in society (such as the lower-class). If youth of the middle class or lower class were to commit a crime, lower class youth are more likely to be entered into the justice system while middle-class youth will be let go with a warning.  The interactionist view also presents a non-consensual view of criminal law. In this view, it is suggested that society‟s powerful define the law at the behest of interest groups, who appeal to those with power in order to rectify a perceived social ill.  We can see through these views that criminal law is based on more than a simple consensus over what society‟s norms are.  The normative objectivity of the law has also been critiqued on the question of the situational applicability of broad social norms. Ex: Murder. But deviance depends on the situation: self-defense, capital punishment, military action in wartime, euthanasia, etc.  Some deviance specialists step into this debate over the degree of consensus involved in social norms by proposing that there are some norms that do have higher levels of consensus. Thio utilizes the concepts of high-consensus deviance and low consensus deviance to distinguish between forms of deviance that have differential levels of support in the broader society. Within the law, certain laws are characterized by relatively more consensus than are others.  Limitations are associated with each of the objective definitions of deviance (normative violation, harm, statistical rarity, and negative societal reaction). These limitations have caused a large-scale shift toward the subjective side. Subjectivism: Deviance as a label  While objectivists suggest that deviance can be recognized by the presence of a particular characteristic, subjectivists say that we cannot recognize deviance when we see it; someone has to tell us that a person, behaviour, or characteristic is deviant. There is no singular trait that is shared by all deviant people throughout history and across cultures, other than the fact that people with some influence on society have said they are deviant.  Becker claims that deviance lies in the reaction rather than the act  The objective use of negative reaction focus on a societal reaction particular behaviours/characteristics are deviant in our society and we can see this through negative societal reaction.  In contrast, early subjectivist use of negative reaction is more abstract. Any behaviour may be reacted to negatively, such that we will never know how a particular act will be responded to.  Consequently, the dominant moral codes of a society serve as the foundation for determining who or what is deviant. “Lists” of right/wrong, appropriate/inappropriate, moral/immoral that predominate a particular society are enforced in multiple ways. Moral codes are shaped by the interests and actions of groups that hold some level of power but the less powerful groups in society are able to participate in the negotiations of moral boundaries (through voting, etc.). Subjectivity and the “Social Construction” of Deviance  The social construction of deviance: In other words, there is nothing inherent in a behaviour/characteristic that makes it deviant; a particular behaviour or characteristic is deviant only id the dominant moral code of a specific society at a certain time in history say that a behaviour is deviant.  Social constructionism refers to the perspective proposing that social characteristics (e.g. “thin,” “delinquent”) are creations or artifacts of a particular society at a specific time in history, just as objects (e.g. houses and cars) are artifacts of that society; consequently, a person, a behaviour, or a characteristic that is considered “deviant” in one society may be considered “normal” in another society or at another time in history.  There are different types/levels of constructionism. 1)Radical/Strict and 2)Soft/Contextual.  Radical constructionists: belief that “there is no essential reality to the social world at all, that if everything and anything is simply looked at in a certain way, that is the way it is.”  Contextual: emphasize the process by which certain social phenomena come to be perceived and reacted to in particular ways in a given society at a specific time in history.  Viewing social constructionism as a process implies that what is of sociological significance is not the individual behaviour or characteristic itself, but rather: (a) its place in social order, (b) the roles assigned to people who exhibit the behaviour or characteristic, and (c) the meanings attached to that behaviour or characteristic.  The way deviance is socially constructed emerges from several ongoing multilevel processes. First is sociocultural levels (beliefs, norms, values, ideologies influence social construction), second is institutional levels (government, education, religion, science), third is interactional levels (relationships), and last is individual level (thoughts and feelings). Transcending the objective/subjective dichotomy  On the objective side of dualism, deviance specialists claim that there is a shared trait that all deviants have in common, a trait that enables us to recognize deviance when we see it. Although statistical rarity, harm, and a negative societal reaction have each been identified as a shared trait, the defining characteristics of deviance that is most often identified is that of normative violation. On the subjective side, deviance specialists claim that there is no shared trait among deviants; instead a person, behaviour, characteristic is deviant is enough important people say so. Through t
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