CHAPTER1 NOTES: ISSUES IN THE STUDY OF DEVIANCE
Why study deviance?
• Vicarious experience: by living in our heads the apparently more exciting or interesting
lives of others or by investigating them and discovering their own lives are preferable.
The fascination with deviance according to psychiatrists is said to be a way of dealing
with disowned parts of ourselves. It is a way of coping with the forbidden urges that we
supress. Vicarious experience as a research motivation can distort our understanding of
deviance. It leads us to study the rare specimens of deviance such as the homosexual
necrophiliac cannibal serial killer Jeffery Dahmer. The result is a concentration on violent
sexual and crazy deviance and a lack of attention to the more frequent but banal forms of
deviance such as cheating.
• Reform: To know about causes and cures of crime. Reform as a research motivation has
its own dangers. First our search for reform policies sometimes outturns our tested
knowledge. For example, the study of deviance contains many tales of experts whose
misguided advice and policies caused great harm. Secondly, people who want to reform
deviants are afraid to consider the deviant perspective seriously. Third, reform impulse
ignores the fact that many kinds of deviance are not as harmful as they are made out to
• Self -protection and sophistication: To protect ourselves from harm.
• Understanding of oneself and others: The identification of deviant lifestyles and images.
For example tattoos, body language and clothing are used to symbolize their otherness.
• Intellectual curiosity
Perspective on deviance
People do not always agree on the behaviours of deviance. The different views are shared
amongst students, public opinion and academic views.
• Adefinition is neither right nor wrong , it is merely more or less useful.A useful
definition is one that is objective, basic, non-circular and distinctive.
• The main problem with objective approaches to deviance is that the actual assignment of
deviant labels by society is never purely objective. • Harmfulness: It is often supposed that deviance is distinctively harmful. The harms that
people associate with deviance are usually physical(body harm), functional(harm to the
working of the system and ontologic