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Chapter 1

Sociology 2259 Chapter 1: Chapter 1


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC 2259
Professor
Lauren Barr
Chapter
1

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Chapter 1: Determining Deviance
Deviance Specialists — study deviance (criminal and noncriminal)
Criminologists — focus exclusively on criminal forms of deviance
Consensus View — laws arise out of social consensus and equally applied to all
Conflict View (Power Perspective) — law is a tool used by the ruling class to serve its’ own
interests, therefore applied more to members of the powerless classes
Interactionist View — society’s powerful define laws at the order of interest groups, who
appeal to those in power to rectify a perceived social ill
Objective vs. Subjective Dichotomy
older definitions of deviance suggested objective ways of defining it where as newer
definitions have shifted to looking at deviance as subjective
Objective
objective views claim that the presence of certain characteristics define deviance, people with
those characteristics are deviants, and people without them are normal
all “deviants” have something in common that allows us to recognize them
defining feature that is most often identified is the violation of norms
Subjective
subjective views of deviance claim that there is no shared, observable characteristic that
clearly tells us who or what is deviant and who or what is normal, instead someone must tell
us who is deviant in Canadian society
we have to be taught through socialization how to identify a deviant person or behaviour
deviance lies in people’s perception of the behaviour rather than the behaviour itself
contemporary subjectivism focuses on the processes by which particular people, behaviours,
or characteristics are perceived in certain ways
HOWEVER the complexities of the work done on studying deviance shows that it transcends
objective vs. subjective and actually integrates both definitions when trying to define or
understand deviance
Objective Definitions of Deviance and Their Limitations
statistical rarity: if a behaviour or characteristic is not typical then it is deviant, however,
limitations include how we define “rare” (i.e. does it occur in less than 50% or 30% of
population), some behaviours aren’t statistically rare but are still thought of as unacceptable in
society and are subjected to control efforts (e.g. underaged drinking), and some statistically
rare behaviours are widely accepted in society (e.g. sport prodigies)
harmfulness: if an action causes harm (physical, emotional, social [i.e. interfering with the
smooth running of society], or threat to the way we understand the world [e.g. religious
beliefs]) then it’s deviant, however, limitations include the unclear and changing definition of
physical hard (e.g. that caused by marijuana use), whether are not society or a belief system
is being harmed is subjective
societal reaction: when society’s “masses” react in a negative rather than positive way then
the person or behaviour is considered deviant, however, limitations include the unclear criteria
for a mass negative reaction from society, that not all laws reflect public opinion/reaction, and
societal reaction aren’t uniform
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