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Chapter 1

SOC 2070 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Ultimate Power, Social Constructionism, Shining Light


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC 2070
Professor
Linda Hunter
Chapter
1

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Deviance, Conformity, and Social Control
Chapter 1 (1-34) – Determining Deviance
Who Is Deviant?
- Nuts, sluts, and perverts
- Shift from unusual to mundane illustrates “deviance is not marginal, it is central to what
we do”
- People who commit crimes, those who perpetuate injustice (racists)  popular
consensus
oAnyone that is disliked
- Exists at societal level rather than individual (where pet peeves lie)
How Can we Recognize Deviance When We see It?
- Dictionary definition involves violating the norms that have been accepted in society,
serious, makes one abnormal and unnatural
- Academic realm
oDeviance specialists analyze criminal and/or non-criminal forms of deviance
Disagreement over the definition
oThose who focus exclusively on criminal forms of deviance are criminologists
- Shift from historical objective definitions to subjective definitions (contemporary
approach)
-Objective views claim the presence of certain characteristics defines deviance:
behaviours or people w/ those characteristics are deviant, and those lacking such
characteristics are normal
-Subjective views claim there is no shared, observable characteristic that can clearly tell
us who is deviant, and normal; someone must tell us who is deviant
- Distinction b/w subjective and objective  dualism/dichotomy – two oppositional and
mutually exclusive categories
The Objective/Subjective Dichotomy
Objectivism: Deviance as an Act
- Something inherent in a person, behaviour, or characteristic that is deviant
- All deviants have something in common that enable us to recognize them
- Characteristics of shared feature– statistical rarity, harm, negative societal reaction,
normative violation
Statistical Rarity
- Not used in academic research but popular usage
- If a behaviour or characteristic is not typical, it is deviant
- Popular credibility but has limitations
oDefinition of “rare” difficult to determine
oSome behaviours not statistically rare but perceived as unacceptable and subject
to control efforts
Teenage alcohol consumption and sexual activity
oMany rare behaviours that are not considered deviant
Left handed people

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Harm
- If an action causes harm then it is deviant
- Physical harm – assault, drunk driving, secondhand smoke, acts on the self
- Emotional harm to others and self
- Directed at society
oSocial harm – interfere w/ smooth running of society as a whole
oCriminals threaten safety of population at large and the social order as a whole
oAll crimes in Canada considered to harm society
- Threat to the way we understand the world and our place in it
oReligious belief systems – joan of arc
- Perceptions of harm galvanize social action, such as laws and bylaws
- Idea of physical harm has changed
oHistorically doctors said masturbation caused hairy palms, acne, and insanity
Many behavioural controls put into place
oPhysical harm of marijuana use campaigns until illegalization
Said to cause violent crimes, murder, idiocy, insanity, and death
- Whether or not a society or belief system is being harmed is subjective
oMuslim women who do not cover their heads
oFeminism changing society – thought change was a harm by negatively
impacting social order
- Need to go beyond harm to define deviance
Societal Reaction
- If the responses of society’s masses are primarily negative then the person or act being
responded is deviant
oEnables us to determine who or what is deviant
- Gaps in defining deviance this way
- Legislative action regarding one issue (same-sex marriage) is to be based on a
representation of societal reaction, while legislative action on another issue
(decriminalization of marijuana) is to be independent of societal reaction and oppose
public opinion
- The law and determinations of who/what is deviant in Canadian society, are based upon
processes that go beyond societal reaction
- Societal reactions are not uniform, different groups of people react in diff ways to the
same behaviour/issue
Normative Violation
- Objectivists absolutist conception
oA behaviour or characteristic was perceived as being inherently and universally
deviant
oCertain immutable norms and values that should be held in all cultures at all
times
oWhat is wrong in one place should be wrong everywhere
- Modern objectivists – norms perceived as being culturally specific rather than universal
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oLearn what behaviours will be rewarded and punished in own culture
oViolate these norms then considered deviant
- Violating some norms result in prison while violating other norms have diff
consequences
oBeing obese, alcoholic, social assistance recipient, plagiarism don’t enter you in
criminal justice system for their normative violations
- Various types of norms, ranging from folkways to mores to laws
- Norms  informal, everyday behaviours, such as rules of etiquette, choice of clothing,
and behaviour in classroom
oThese kinds of informal norms are called folkways and if you violate them you
are considered odd
-Mores  standards often seen as foundation of morality in a culture, such as prohibitions
against incest or homosexuality
oViolate them and though of as immoral or evil
- Some considered central to smooth running of society and are enshrined in legal
system
oIntegrates mores
- Integration of norms into objectivist definitions presumes level of consensus
oAssumed that citizens agree on the norms
oQuestion extent to which expectation must be shared in order to be considered a
norm
Used as standard
- Normative consensus difficult to determine  multiplicity of individuals, groups and sets
of expectations
- Deviance equated w/ criminality
- Law creation is a political activity
oNorms embodied in law don’t necessarily reflect opinion of citizens
-Consensual view of law – law perceived as arising out of social consensus and equally
applied to all
-Conflict view (social power perspective) – law as a tool used by the ruling class to
serve its own interests
oMore applied to members of powerless classes ins society
oHoward Becker – police more likely to enter lower-class youth into the justice
system and let middle class go w/ warning
-Interactions view – non-consensual view of criminal law
oSociety’s powerful define the law at the behest of interest groups, who appeal to
those w/ power in order to rectify a perceived social ill
oCriminal law seen as emerging out of the interests of certain groups
- Complex view of criminal law  the nation’s law must attempt to strike some sort of a
balance b/w the interests of the powerful, the opinion of the majority, and the views of
special interest groups
- Situational applicability of broad social norms
oSelf-defense, capital punishment, military action in wartime, euthanasia  taking
human life may be acceptable
oTaking another life not called murder in these circumstances
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