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Chapter 2

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University of Guelph
SOC 2070
Norman Dubeski

Chapter 2 Sociology of deviance is made up of two distinct but interrelated enterprises:  Essentialism: sees deviance as objectively real and scientifically explainable  Constructionism: 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 Positivism: they believe that an objective common core or thread holds all deviance and crime together, otherwise there would be nothing to explain Positivism: the application of the scientific method to the study of human behaviour  Believes deviance and crime can be studied in much the same way that natural phenomena can be studied. 3 fundamental assumptions: Empiricism: empiricism is the belief that seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting, and smelling convey information that gives the observer sense impressions of the way things are.  Most human behaviour cannot be seen at the moment it is enacted, instead, social scientists must infer what happened through a variety of indirect indicators, including the answers to questions about the behaviour of subjects, informants, and interviewees. Objectivism: means that phenomena in the material world are objectively real and possess certain objective or internally consistent characteristics that distinguish them from other phenomena  Positivists reject the notion that definitions of right or wrong are really as relative as constructionist sociologists of deviance argue  There is a material reality to crime above and beyond social and legal definitions. Crime is more much than a mere social constructions; there is an identifiable behaviour core to criminal behaviour Determinism: the belief that the world works in a cause-and-effect fashion  Scientists seek naturalistic explanations, that is, the location of cause- and-effect can be found in the material world Positivistic approaches are either: Individual (micro): they focus on the characteristics of categories of individuals who violate norms or break the law Structural (macro): looks at the big picture and argues that certain deviance- inducing conditions share a common thread that can be discovered which will lead to an explanation of deviance Positivist Theories Free Will: also called the classical school of criminology was the first sophisticated and academically respectable perspective or theory of criminal or deviant behaviour. This theory argued that individuals choose among a number of alternative courses of action according to benefits they believe will accrue to them.  Sees people as free, rational and hedonistic Routine Activities Theory: argues that criminal behaviour will take place when and where there is a conjunction of three elements:  The motivated offender: assumed by the theory to exist, there will always be a supply of people who are motivated to break the law, looking for a rational means of attaining an end  A suitable target: money, property, anything desirable  Absence of a capable guardian: refers to the fact that formal or informal agents of social control are not operative in every situation Rationalistic Theories: take the “motivated offender” for granted and focus on the condition that brings him/her out.  Criticism: the free will factor along is not a viable explanation Social Disorganization Theory: views factors that explain deviance and crime as being located not in the person but in the social structure  Entire neighbourhoods become so disorganized that merely living in them hugely increased the likelihood of engaging in forms of deviant behaviour  As cities grow, social distance increases, sense of community declines, deviant behaviour increases  Land Value: low rental property attracts tenants with two characteristics o Geographically unstable, no emotional attachment to the neighbourhood o Socially, racially and ethnically heterogeneous, they do not cohere into a unified community.  The absence of capable guardian: entire neighbourhoods have lost the desire to monitor behaviour  Criticism: doesn’t apply to many deviations in society such as homosexuality and white collar crime. Merton’s Anomie/Strain Theory: social structures exert a definite pressure upon certain people in society to engage in non-conforming conduct. Deviance results not from a too weak hold of societies norms, but on a too-strong hold following societies norms  Influenced by Durkheim’s theory on anomie: Major social changes generate disruptions in the traditional social order  Merton’s Anomie is different: a disjunction between culturally defined goals and structurally available opportunities  The gap between the cultural order (that says we must become materially successful) and the social and economic order (which wont give us the means to attain these material needs) is what causes deviance.  This is the opposite of routine activities theory and social disorganization theory in that those theories assume there is a large supply of deviants waiting for the right moment, while strain theory argues we must be pushed to deviance  A macro scope approach  Different responses to goal attainment: o Conformity: the conformist accepts both cultural values or success and the institutionalized, legitimate, or conventional means for reaching these goals. Strives for material success and choose law-abiding methods o Innovation: the innovator accepts the goal of success but chooses to achieve it in an illegal, illegitimate or deviant fashion. o Ritualism: the ritualist plays it safe, doesn’t take chances. A kind of over-conformity, there is no goal of success, only a retention of rules o Retreatism: the Retreatist rejects both goals as well as institutionalized means. They give up the goal of success and all avenues of achieving any success. o Rebellion: the rebel renounces prevailing values and introduces an alternative social, political and economic structure, one in which the current stresses and strains do not exist.  Criticism: Middle Class Bias: made the assumption that lower and working class people commit acts of crime and deviance in general significantly more frequently that is true of the members of middle class. o Irrelevance of Anomie in most forms of deviance: anomie accounts for some, but certainly not all, forms of deviance. It actually turns out to be irrelevant to most
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