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Chapter 1

SOCB50 - Chapter 1: Issues in the Study of Deviance.docx

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Denis Wall

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SOCB50 – Week 2 Readings Chapter 1: Issues in the Study of Deviance WHY STUDY DEVIANCE?  Vicarious experience o By living the apparently more exciting or interesting lives of others – or by investigating them and discovering that our own lives are preferable. o Can be a way of dealing w/disowned parts of ourselves; indirect way of coping w/the forbidden urges that most suppress as we grow up o Vicarious living is a habit that our culture reinforces  Media knows that people love watching sneaky, conniving people treat each other badly bc it is more interesting than watching pleasant, orderly people be good responsible citizens.  Vicariously we can experience the thrill without taking the risks of deviance o The problem with this is it can distort our understanding of deviance ~ a concentration on violent, crazy deviance and lack of attention to the more frequent forms of deviance such as cheating, exploiting etc  Reform o Interest in reform can be personal (i.e. you live in a district that is declining into prostitution and open drug use)  Personal knowledge of the devastation of rape, drunk driving etc may spark a desire to know more  Victims of crime often become experts on the criminal justice system  Interest can also be more abstract and personal – some of us study deviance bc we recognize that knowing how and whether to do something about deviance has value  It can be satisfying, for example, to discover the real dimensions of hidden abuses o The problems include: the search for reform policies sometimes outruns our tested knowledge i.e. the current assumption that lack of self-esteem causes delinquent bhr can result in programs that produce delinquents rather than ex-delinquents. Second problem is the belief that understanding means excusing often interferes when reform is the motivation. E.g. ppl who want to reform deviants are sometimes afraid to consider the deviant perspective seriously. Third, reform impulse also ignores the fact that many kinds of deviance are not as harmful as they are made out to be. i.e. women going to med school  Self-Protection and Sophistication o Being knowledgeable about tactics of cult recruiters, drug pushers, muggers, terrorists and con artists make us feel wiser and safer. o Also recognizing deviance that is not harmful to not become caught in moral panics.  Understanding Oneself and Others o Some people enjoy having a deviant image where a others indulge in it only Saturday nights o They can cultivate a style that wins them respect in unconventional milieus i.e. tattoos, clothing, body language  Intellectual Curiosity 1 o Pure, disinterested curiosity o Wanting to know how things work Whatever the motivation, many kinds of deviance are presented to us only in distorted images. Deviants often camouflages to avoid detection, to make others afraid of them or to create social space in which they can operate undisturbed PERSPECTIVES ON DEVIANCE  Student Views on Deviance o A classroom survey uncovered the nominations for deviant status: murder, rapists, child molesters, flashers, delinquents, junkies, drug dealers, mental cases, prostitution, pimps, idiots, freaks etc o Campus living produced some special categories: freeloading, getting drunk, smoking in bed, loud music etc  Public Opinions about Deviance o In a sample people reported most often criminal behaviour as sexual variants, straights, smart allecks etc o Across nationalities we see that people rate similar acts as criminal and tend to rate these criminal acts as more serious than “immoral or disgusting”  Academic Views of Deviance o Before the 1960s academics studying deviance tended to focus on outsiders – addicts, strippers, prostitutes etc. = little was manifested in the bhr of powerful and respectable white collar criminals and cheats o Deviance was treated as absolute – as something real in itself rather than something constructed that depends on attitudes of others who put a label on it and “make” the deviant by naming him or her. o Sometimes academics have attempted to establish their own absolute standards. i.e. Marxian and Humanist writes have maintained that deviance is found whenever human actions are exploitative or threaten the dignity and quality of life of others o In the1930s, sociology and social psych were used as tools to deal w/ social problems such as unemployment, mental illnesses, family bre akups etc.  Many of these proems were related to phases of industrial capitalism and oncoming globalization o From the 1960s on there has been an increased activism on the part of formerly marginalized “deviant” populations (black power, granny power, gay power) who resist the double deviantizaton of being treated as outsiders by academics and the public o By the 1990s “theorists of the post social” had further undermined the idea that one version of what is normal could be used as a measure for deviance or abnormality. DEFINING DEVIANCE Objective Characteristics 2  A purely objective definition points to empirical features of the subject, to what is physically present and can be seen, heard and measured. – does not involve moralistic or emotional evaluations ... however this sort of definition is not always possible  The main problem w; objective approaches to deviance is that the actual assignment of deviance labels by society is never purely objective 0 it carries a negative moral evaluation as an intrinsic part of its popular meaning A Basic Definition (No Assumptions)  Useful definitions are noncircular  One way of evading circularity is to find something distinctive about deviance, something that is present in every case and that distinguishes deviance from other kinds of bhr  Statistical Rarity o Deviance is often equated with atypicality or deviation from a common center o This can be represented in the bell curve (or normal distribution) – bhr that is most common is deemed normal, while bhr that varies from this norm is held to be deviant o Note: not all curves in society are normal curves o Another type of curve is called the J-curve which applies to the brhr such as arriving on time, getting back to the car before the meter runs out, studying etc (leave things for closer to last min) o The assumption that curves are/should be normal or J-shaped has distorted conclusions about whether a bhr differs from the norm and is deviant o Important risk in the use of statistical measures of deviance is the fact that many kinds of disreputable bh
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