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Chapter 2

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SOC 2070
Norman Dubeski

Chapter 2 Explaining Deviant Behaviour Positivist TheoriesIntroductionThe sociology of deviance is made up of two distinct interlocking enterprisesessentialism and constructionism Essentialism see deviance as objectively real and hence scientifically explainableConstructionism argues that the most fundamental feature of deviance is the fact that rules judgments of wrongdoing and assigning offenders to deviant categories are rendered by specific audiences in specific contexts Essentialism implies positivismMost positivist of criminologists and sociologists of deviance recognize that all crime and deviance is defined by laws and rules and hence they are relativistic and socially constructedAll positivists believe and must believe in order for their enterprise to be legitimatethat an objective common core or thread holds all deviance and crime together otherwise there would be nothing to explainPositivists are more likely to stress essential characteristics that all things called deviance and crime have in common whereas constructionists are more likely to stress the process by which certain things come to be regarded and judged as crime and devianceWhat is positivism in the social sciences It is the application of the scientific method to the study of human behaviourPositivism is based on three fundamental assumptions 1 empiricism 2 objectivism and 3 determinism Empiricismo Empiricism is the belief that seeing feeling hearing tasting and smelling convey information that gives the observer sense impressions of the way things areo Many things can never be directly observed such as historical and geographical events that happened in the past hence reasoning about them entails inferring from the data available to the scientisto Positivists believe that if phenomena are not directly or indirectly observable through the information provided by the five scenes and cannot be integrated into existing or conceivable theoretical and conceptual perspectives questions asked and issues raised or not scientifically meaningfulo Not necessarily wrong just nonscientificoutside the scientific frameworko The fact that most things cannot be directly observed by the scientist is especially crucial for the sociologist and the criminologist because most human behaviour cannot be seen at the moment it is enactedo Social scientists have to infer what happened through a variety of indirect indicators Objectivismo Means that phenomena is the material world are objectively real and possess certain objects or internally consistent characteristics that distinguish them from other phenomenao The many forms of deviant behaviour share a common thread a differentiating trait that distinguishes them from conventional conforming legal behaviouro Positivists reject the notion that definitions of right and wrong are really as relative as constructionists sociologists of deviance argue Public perceptions of right and wrong do not vary much across societal lines there is a common core from society to society to whats regarded as deviant Some argue that the common core is harm behaviour that is harmful to society is highly likely to be defined as wrongdoing hence the central assumption of deviance specialistsrelativismis incorrect o Crime is not simply the process of social construction there is a material reality to crime above and beyond social and legal definitionsCrime is much more than a mere social construction there is an identifiable behaviour core or essence to criminal behaviouro All positivists know that deviance is defined by norms and that norms are relative to time and place o Still they feel there is enough internal consistency among deviant categories that an explanation for their existence is possible something about them leads the scientist to examine them together as a category Determinism o They ask the following what causes the deviant behaviour beliefs or conditions o The types of questions ask for an explanation of deviance as a certain type of action or behaviouro Scientists seek naturalistic explanations that is the location of cause and effect can be found in the material world o Scientists do not accept parapsychology as a scientific discipline because it doesnt fit in with a materialistic or scientific framework o Looks for the causes and effect explanations for the acts and beliefs that are regarded as deviantThe belief that the world works in a cause and effect fashion is referred to as determinism And an explanation for a general class of phenomena or events is called a theoryPositivists believe that there is a reason for their patterning that events of the world do not take place at random o Conditions or factors cause or influence specific forms of behaviour deviance included and it is the scientists job to locate the dynamics of the cause and effect sequences that exist in the world
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