Chapter 7: Deviance and Crime
The SocialDefinitionof Deviance and Crime
Cultural norms vary deviance is relative
The DifferenceBetween Deviance and Crime
Deviance – when someone departs from a norm and evokes a negative reaction from others
Crime – deviance that is against the law
Law – a norm stipulated and enforced by government bodies
Crime is relative to what is considered deviant in society
o Eg. Nazi’s weren’t criminals at the time, Jesus was a criminal at the time.
Most deviant acts are too trivial or not noticed to be punished.
Serious deviant acts, if noticed, are punished formally or informally
o Formal punishment – takes place when the judicial system penalizes someone for breaking
o Informal punishment – involves a mild sanction that is imposed during face-to-face
interaction, not by the judicial system
Stigmatized – when people are negatively evaluated because of a marker that distinguishes them
from others and that is labeled as socially unacceptable
o John Lie was stigmatized as a child for being a Korean in Japanese school. BUT if the racial
discrimination law existed at the time, they wouldn’t have because of sanctions.
Types of deviance and crime vary in terms of:
o Severity of the social response (mild disapproval to capital punishment)
o Perceived harmfulness (Eg. Coca-Cola used to contain cocaine, but it was banned after
people’s perceptions of its harmfulness changed)
o Degree of public agreement (Eg. 19 century, Inuits would let the babies die because it
wasn’t considered an offence, more concern for food)
4 Types of deviance and crime:
o 1. Social diversions – minor acts of deviance that are generally perceived as relatively
harmless and that evoke, at most, a mild societal reaction, such as amusement or disdain
Eg. fads and fashion
o 2. Social deviations – non-criminal departures from norms that are nonetheless subject to
official control. Some members of the public regard them as somewhat harmful while other
members of the public do not.
Eg. Hawaii had a rule making long hair punishable by a public haircut
o 3. Conflict crime – illegal acts that many people consider harmful to society. However, other
people think they are not very harmful. They are punishable by the state.
Eg. Russia once made long beard tax, to discourage long beards
o 4. Consensus crimes – illegal acts that nearly all people agree are bad in themselves and
harm society greatly. The state inflicts severe punishment for consensus crimes.
Eg. Medieval Japan had specific hairstyles for specific statuses or you’d be
questioning the law and be killed
Crimestatistics – information collected by the police – is published annually on the offences and
offenders. Problems: o 1. Much crime isn’t reported
Victimless crimes – involve violations of the law in which no victim steps forward
and is identified
Eg. Prostitution, gambling, illegal drugs
Common assaults aren’t reported because of personal relationship between victim
Victims of sexual assaults afraid of humiliation, not believed, stigmatized
o 2. Authorities and the wider public decide which criminal acts to report and ignore
Eg. police crack down on drugs lead to more drug crimes being reported
Self-report surveys – respondents are asked to report their involvement in criminal activities,
either as perpetrators or as victims
o Solve official stats problems, but reports mostly the same, except 2-3x minor crimes
o Tell us majority engaged in some type of criminal activity and ¼ were victims
To be a criminal:
o One’s law-violating behavior must be observes and felt to justify action
o Behavior must be reported to the police who respond to the incident and decide that it
warrant further investigation, file a report, and make an arrest.
o The accused must appear at a preliminary hearing, that they will be convicted because guilt
is not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Victimization surveys – in which people are asked whether they have been victims of crime
o 55% of victimization crimes reported, mostly being property crimes because of insurance
o decline in crime since 70s, violent crime peaked in 60s and fell in 90s.
Explanations for Declining Crime Rates
1. “war against crime” increasingly fought by larger corps of better trained and equipped law
enforcement and correctional officers. + policing initiatives, case-management methods,
2. Young men are most prone to crime but Canada is aging and the number of young people has
declined. 90s baby bust
3. Male unemployment rate contribute to poor economic conditions high crime rate in 80s
4. Legalization of abortion 70s onwards, less unwanted children, less criminal behavior
Canadian criminal court cases more male involvement throughout
15-24 year old age cohort is the most prone to criminal behavior
Race and incarceration
Overrepresentation of aboriginals in Canada’s inmate population, despite low population in
comparison to all of Canada. 4 explanations:
o 1. Majority of aboriginals are poor
o 2. They commit Street crimes – includes arson, break and enter, assault, and other illegal
acts disproportionately committed by people from lower class – more than white collar
crimes – an illegal act committed by a respectable, high-status person in the course of work.
o 3. Authority may discriminate against Aboriginals
o 4. Western culture disrupted their social life less social control
^^ includes black people more likely than white & Asian age, education, and lack of criminal
records don’t protect blacks from searches and well-to-do blacks more likely to be searched.
Explaining Deviance and Crime
Kody Scott reformed in prison after being a member of the gang the Crips in South Central LA Symbolic Interactionist Approaches to Deviance and Crime
Symbolic internationalists identify the social circumstances that promote learning of deviant and
Howard S. Becker – studied marijuana users in 1940s while playing piano in Chicago jazz bands
Threestage learning process before becoming marijuana users
1. Learning to smoke the drug in a way that produces real effects.
2. Learning to recognize the effects and connect them with drug use
3. Learning to enjoy the perceived sensations
Labeling theory: holds that deviance results not so much from the actions of the deviant as from the
response of others who label the rule breaker a deviant.
Variant of symbolic interactionism
o deviant or criminal are not applied when a person engages in rule-violating behaviour
Some individuals escape being labeled as deviants despite having engaged in deviant behaviour
important part in who is caught and charged demonstrated by AaronCicourel
o examined the tendency to label rule-breaking adolescents as juvenile delinquents if they
came from families in which the parents were divorced. He found that police officers
tended to use their discretionary powers to arrest adolescents from intact families who
committed similar delinquent acts. Sociologists and criminologists then collected data on
the social characteristics of adolescents who were charged as juvenile delinquents proving
that children from divorced families are more likely to become juvenile delinquents
His controversial claim: deviance and crime are beneficial for society
1. When someone breaks a rule, it provides others with a chance to condemn and punish the
transgression, remind them of their common values, clarify the moral boundaries of the group to
which they belong and thus reinforce social solidarity
2. Deviance and