Chapter 7 from textbook
What is deviance?
Deviance – recognized violation of cultural norms (guides virtually all human activities)
o Ex. Crime – violation of a society’s formally enacted criminal law
Negative instances of rule breaking
Element of difference that causes us to think of another person as an “outside”
Not all deviance involves action or even choice
All of us are subject to social control – attempts by society to regulate people’s thoughts and behavior
Criminal justice system – formal response by police, courts, and prison officials to alleged violence of the law – for
cases of serious deviance
The Biological Context
Lombroso – suggested the criminality was related to physical facial features
Sheldon – suggested that body structure mght predict criminality
Genetics research: no link between certain genetic traits and criminality thus far
Critical review: biological theories offer a very limited explanation of crime; offers no insight into how some kinds of
behaviors come to be defined as deviant
Focus on individual abnormality
Argument: personality is shaped by social experience therefore, deviance is a result of “unsuccessful socialization”
Reckless & Dinitz: Containment Theory
Critical review: Personality has some connection to deviance but most serious crimes are committed by people whose
psychological profiles are normal.
The Social Foundations of Deviance
Deviance varies according to cultural norms.
o Only becomes deviant in relation to particular norms
People become deviant as others define them that way.
o Behavior is considered deviant depending on how others perceive, define and respond to it.
Both norms and the way people define situations involve social power.
o Norms and how we apply them reflect social inequality
The Functions of Deviance: Structural-Functionalist Analysis
Deviance is a necessary element of social organization
Durkheim’s Basic Insight
Deviance affirms cultural values and norms. o Shows which attitudes and behaviors people prefer.
o There can be no good without evil and no justice without crime.
o Needed to define and sustain morality
Responding to deviance clarifies moral boundaries.
o Draws a boundary between right and wrong
Responding to deviance brings people together.
o Reaffirm the moral ties that bind people together
Deviance encourages social change.
o Deviance suggests alternatives to the status quo and may encourage change
Merton’s Strain Theory
Argument: excessive deviance arises from particular social arrangements (some deviance is necessary for society to
Extent and kind of deviance depends on whether a society provides the means to achieve cultural goals
Strain: between cultural emphasis on wealth and the lack of opportunities to get rich gives rise to deviance
Responses to the inability to succeed:
o Deviance innovation – using unconventional means to achieve a culturally approved goal
o Ritualism – obsessively stick to the rules in order to feel respectable
o Retreatism – rejecting both cultural goals and means so that one “drops out”
Deviance: lies in their unconventional lifestyles and their willingness to live that way
o Rebellion – reject both cultural definition of success and the conventional means of achieving it but also form
a counterculture and advocating alternatives to the existing order
Cloward and Ohlin: extension of Merton’s Theory
Argument: Crime results not from limited legitimate opportunity but also from readily accessible illegitimate
opportunity. Deviance or conformity depends on the relative opportunity structure that frames a person’s life.
Where the structure of opportunity factors criminal activity, Cloward and Ohlin predict the development of criminal
But when people aren’t able to find any opportunities:
o Conflict subcultures – violence is ignited by frustration and a desire for respect
o Retreatist subcultures – deviants drop out and abuse alcohol and other drugs
Cohen: criminality is most frequent amongst lower class youth because they have the least opportunity to achieve
Miller: Deviant subcultures are characterized by…