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Chapter 1

SOC 2070 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Social Change, Molehill, Essentialism

Course Code
SOC 2070
Norman Dubeski

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Week 1
Introduction: What is Deviance? – page #1-22:
Deviance in Everyday Life:
Just about everyone has done something that someone else frowns upon; just about
everyone belies something that certain others don’t like, holds attitudes of which somebody
disapproves, or possesses and physical or ethnic characteristics that touch off distain or
hostility or denigration in this, that, or some other social circle, “audience,” or person
Humans are evaluative creatures however warranted or unwarranted, we make judgments
about the behaviour, beliefs, or appearances or characteristics of others; each and every one
of us does the same thing all of us evaluate others, although in somewhat different ways
Societies everywhere have rules or norms governing what we may and may not do, how we
should and shouldn’t think, what we should and should not believe, even how we should and
shouldn’t look, and those norms are so detailed and complex, and so dependent on the views
and different audiences or social circles of evaluators, that what everyone does, believes,
and is, is looked on negatively by someone indeed, in all likelihood, by lots of other people
There are 4 necessary ingredients for deviance to take place
1. A rule or norm
2. Someone who violates (or is thought to violate) that norm
3. An audience, someone who judges the normative violation to be wrong
4. A likelihood of a negative reaction criticism, censure, stigma, disapproval, punishment,
and the like by that audience
To qualify as deviance, it isn’t even necessary to violate a norm that’s serious norms are
everywhere, and they vary in seriousness, and different social circles believe in and profess
different norms
“Deviance” is a matter of degree, a continuum or a spectrum, from trivial to extremely serious,
and it is relative as to audience
Nearly everything about every one of us is a potential source of criticism, condemnation, or
censure, in some social circles, from the point of view of some observers
Deviance is not a simply quality resting with a given action, belief, or trait inherent in, intrinsic
to, or indwelling within them
What makes a given act deviant is the way it is seen, regarded, judged, evaluated, and the
way that others audiences treat the person who engages in that act
Deviance is that which is reacted to negatively, in a socially rejecting fashion, within certain
social settings
Acts, beliefs, and traits are deviant to certain persons or audiences or in certain social circles
What defines deviance is the actual or potential reaction that actions, beliefs, and traits
generate or are likely to generate in audiences
It is this negative reaction that defines or constitutes a given act, belief, or trait as deviant
without that reaction, actual or potential, we do not have a case of deviance on our hands
Humans create and enforce rules, but we also violate some of society’s rules; the tendency to
do as we please, against the norms, is inherently disobedient
All societies generate a multitude of rules and their violations, likewise, are multitudinous
the most numerous and detailed the rules, the more opportunities there are for normative
Virtually no one abides by all the rules all the time this is a literal impossibility, since some
of these rules contradict one another
None of the rules are considered valid by everyone in any society almost any action, belief,
or characteristic we could think of is approved in some social circles and condemned in
The Sociology of Deviance as Non-Pejorative:
Every one of us has our own views, and those views may agree or disagree with the
audiences whose reactions we are looking at

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Week 1
When sociologists use the term “deviance” and “deviant,” they use them in an absolutely non-
pejorative fashion this means that they are descriptive terms that apply to what others think
and how they are likely to react
In short, deviance is an analytic category: it applies to all spheres and areas of human life; it
is a trans-historical, cross-cultural concept
The dynamics of deviance have taken place throughout recorded history and in every known
society, anywhere humans have interacted with one another
Deviance-defining processes take place everywhere and anywhere people engage in
behaviour, hold and express beliefs, and possess traits that others regard as unacceptable
Normative violations, and reactions to normative violations, occur everywhere they exist
and have existed in all societies everywhere and throughout human history
They are a central and foundational social process
“Deviance” does not refer to immorality or psychopathology; sociologically, it means one thing
and one thing only: the violation of social norms that can result in punishment, condemnation,
or ridicule it is a descriptive, not pejorative term
Societal and Situational Deviance:
There are two sides to judgments of deviance:
1. Its vertical or hierarchical side, the side that says people with more power (or the majority
of a society) gets to say what’s deviant because they influence the climate of opinion and
have more influence in the political and legislative realms
2. Its horizontal or “grassroots” or “mosaic” side, the side that says deviance can be
anything that any collectivity says it is, no matter how little power they have
We must make a distinction between societal and situational deviance
Societal deviance is composed of those actions and conditions that are widely recognized, in
advance or in general, to be deviant there is a high degree of consensus on the
identification of certain categories of deviance
In this sense, rape, robbery, corporate theft, terrorism, and transvestism are deviant because
they are regarded as reprehensible to the majority of the members of this society examples
of “high consensus” deviance, in that a substantial proportion of the population disapproves
of them
Certain acts, beliefs, and traits are deviant society-wide because they are condemned, both
in practice and in principle, but the majority, or by the most powerful members of the society
“societal” judgments of deviance represent the hierarchical side of deviance
Situational deviance does not possess a general or society-wide quality, but manifests itself
in actual, concrete social gatherings, circles, or settings
There are 2 types of situational deviance: one that violates the norms dictating what one may
and may not do within a certain social or physical setting and one that violates the norms
within certain social circles or groups
The norms condemning certain behaviours apply only within specific contexts and not others;
the behaviour that these norms condemn is situationally, not societally, deviant
The social definition of deviance also varies by the group or collectivity or social circle within
which behaviour is enacted, beliefs are expressed, or traits are known about
The behaviour that is condemned is seen as wrong only among certain social circles in the
society not in the society as a whole
The distinction between “societal deviance” (acts, beliefs, and traits that are considered bad
or wrong in a society generally) and “situational” deviance (acts, beliefs, and traits that are
considered bad or wrong specifically within a particular group, social circle, setting, or
contexts) casts doubt on the cliché
Understanding the dynamics of deviance demands that we make the distinction between
societal and situational deviance
Deviance is a mater of degree some acts are highly likely to attract condemnation and
censure, while others are extremely unlikely to do so or likely only in certain settings or
among certain collectivities
Looking at deviance from a vertical (or hierarchical) perspective raises the question of the
dominance of one category or society over another
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