SOC101 NOTES- Deviance & Crime
Normalcy: studying crime and deviance
Deviance: any behaviour, belief or condition that violates norms; it is something that is conferred by the
group’s response (relative), continually changing, and varies in seriousness.
Understanding deviance: study the context under which something is deemed deviant.
Durkheim: deviance is present in all societies though they vary; deviance are acts that offend
collective sentiments. His “perfect and upright” analogy explains that just as those people judge
their own smallest failings with severity, so too do those who belong to groups considered
exemplary; “it is impossible for everyone to be alike because each of us cannot stand in the
Criminal Code: defines crime as “intentional violation of criminal law without defense and excuse. Has 4
components—politicality, specificity, uniformity, and penal sanctions.
To be found guilty: actus reus (act that has been committed) and mens rea (the intent) must
always be together to consider a crime.
Types of crime: “mala in se” (crimes that are themselves evil) and “mala prohibita”(crimes
because they are illegal)
Norms: varies according to whether people know they exist, accept them, enforce them uniformly, think
them important, back them up with law, and adhere to them in public/private lives.
Social constructionism: apparently natural or innate features of life are often sustained by social
processes that vary historically and culturally; power is crucial element in the social construction of
deviance and crime.
Social control: systematic practices developed by social groups to encourage conformity and discourage
deviance; happens through socialization (people internalize norms & values), use of negative sanctions
and the legal system.
Sociologists focus on ways in which specific groups, behaviours, conditions or artifacts become defined
as problems. They study what type of behaviours are defined as deviant, who does this defining, how
and why people became deviants and how society deals with deviants.
Claim makers: those who articulate/promote claims and who tend to gain in some way if the targeted
audience accepts their claims are true (Example: government officials, scientists, advertisers).
Success of claim-making campaign depends on: claim makers’ access to media, available
resources, position in society, and skill at fundraising, promotion and organization.
Sociological Perspectives on Crime Deviance
Functionalist: in a smoothly functioning society, deviance will be limited because most people will share
common culture goals and agree upon the appropriate means for reaching them. However, societies
that lack sufficient avenues to reach these goals may lack agreement about how people may achieve
their aspirations. Strain theory (Merton): people feel strain when they are exposed to cultural goals that they are
unable to obtain because they do not have access to culturally approved means of achieving
Illegimate opportunity structures/opportunity theory (Cloward & Ohlin): for deviance to occur,
people must have access to circumstances that provide an opportunity for people to acquire
through illegitimate activities what they cannot achieve through legitimate channels. Criminal,
conflict and retreatist emerge based on type of illegitimate opportunities available in a specific
Social bond theory/control theory (Hirschi): the likelihood of deviant behaviour increases when
a person’s ties to society are weakened/broken; social bonding consists of attachment,
commitment, involvement and belief.
Symbolic interactionist: deviance is learned in same way as conformity—through interaction with others.
Differential association theory (Sutherland): individuals have a greater tendency to deviate from
societal norms when they frequently associate with persons who favour deviance over
Labelling theory (Chambliss): those labelled as deviant may lead to subsequent deviance.
Labelling is directly related to power and status of those persons who do the labelling and those
who are being labelled; deviance is defined by social audience.
Limert: primary deviance is initial act of rule breaking and secondary deviance is when a person
who has been labelled deviant accepts that new identity and continues the deviant behaviour.
Moral entrepreneurs (Becker): people/groups who take an active role in trying to have particular
behaviours defined as deviant.
Moral crusades: public and media awareness campaigns that help generate public and political
support for moral entrepreneurs’ causes.
Conflict: people in positions of power maintain their advantage by using law to protect their own
interests. Lifestyles considered deviant by political and economic elites are often defined as illegal.
Marx: criminal justice system protects the power and privilege of the capitalist class.
Quinney: people with economic and political power define criminal any behaviour that
threatens their own interests.
Reiman: the way laws are written and enforced benefits the capitalist class by ensuring that
individuals at the bottom do not take property or threaten the safety of those at the top.
Feminist (Comack): women’s deviance