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Chapter 1

Sociology 2259 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Olation, Body Piercing, Social Constructionism


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC 2259
Professor
Kim Luton
Chapter
1

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Chapter 1- Determining Deviance
-Who is deviant?
-“nuts, sluts, and perverts”
-criminals
-important to focus on how people and concepts are deviant to society and its sociocul-
tural processes, not just you personally
-what/ who determines what is “normal”?
-objective views of deviance claim that the presence of certain characteristics defines
deviance
-subjective views of deviance claim that there is no shared, observable characteristic
that can clearly tell us who or what is deviant in Canadian society
-distinction between objective and subjective is typically described as a dualism or di-
chotomy, wherein objective and subjective represent 2 oppositional and mutually exclu-
sive categories
-however, recent shifts in definitions of deviance often go beyond this notion of objec-
tive and subjective as mutually exclusive categories and instead combine aspects of
both --> Objective/ Subjective Dichotomy
-many contemporary ways of looking at deviance are blends of both objective and sub-
jective approaches
The Objective/ Subjective Dichotomy
-objective side of dichotomy, and typically older view of deviance, is that there is some-
thing inherently deviant in a person, behaviour, or characteristic
-all deviants have something in common that enables us to recognize them when we
see them
-precise nature of that shared trait is a matter of debate
-traits most frequently postulated include statistical rarity, harm, negative societal
reaction, and normative violation
-sometimes criticized by other deviance specialists, particularly those working from a
subjective approach
Statistical Rarity

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-one definition of deviance associated with the objective side of the objective/subjective
dualism is based on statistical rarity
-not a definition commonly utilized in academic research, popular usage in everyday
talk
-states that if a behaviour or characteristic is not typical, it is deviant
-difficulty in determining the criterion for rarity illustrates one of the limitations of this
definition of deviance
-second limitation is that some behaviours are not statistically rare, but are still per-
ceived as being unacceptable in the larger society and are subjected to control efforts
-thirdly, we must also consider that there are many rare behaviours or characteristics
that are not considered deviant in Canadian society--> ie. left-handed people, sports
prodigies, physically active people
-since there is this contradiction and limitation, some deviance specialists propose it is
more than the statistical number of people who engage in a specific behaviour that de-
termines its deviancy, whereas some believe the harm an action or behaviour causes
there also causes it to be deviant
Harm
-2nd definition of deviance associated with the objective side of the objective/subjective
dichotomy is based on the concept of harm
-if the action causes harm, then it is deviant
-most obvious type is physical harm, either done to others or oneself
-emotional harm can also be done to others and oneself
-certain behaviours constitute social harm because although not directed at a specific
person, they interfere with the smooth running of society as a whole
-finally, harm may be directed at something far more abstract and ethereal than a per-
son or society; harm may occur in the form of a threat to the way we understand the
world and our place in it
-historically religious belief systems have frequently provided us with a means of ab-
stract understanding on a large scale
-when something is perceived to threaten the fundamental assumptions upon which so-
ciety is built, it may be considered deviant
-seems self-explanatory that physical harm would be easy to define, but highly influ-
enced by society’s views ie--> at one time smoking wasn’t considered bad for you, and
masturbation was considered a massive health risk

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-also common has been exaggerated claims about the dangers of marijuana use, lead-
ing to its criminalization in 1923
-when it comes to the idea of interfering with the current social order, or threatening a
belief system or world view, the limitations of defining deviance by virtue of harm be-
come more evident
-first, whether or not society or a belief system is being harmed can be subjective
-if something changes society, is it harmful? ie. feminism
-many limitations on using harm to define deviance, therefore rarely used in academic
literature
-it is recognized tho that harm, or perceived threat or danger is one of the characteris-
tics of deviance
-Lianos (with Douglass, 2000) proposed that being merely viewed as harmful is what is
most significant to the study of deviance
Societal Reaction
-if the general pop responds negatively rather than positively, then the person or act be-
ing responded to is deviant
-inconsistencies in public beliefs and laws reveal that law, and more broadly, determina-
tions of who/what is deviant in Canadian society are based upon processes that go be-
yond societal reaction
-since societal reaction is so diverse, it alone cannot determine how a particular behav-
iour is treated in Canadian society
Normative Violation
-early objectivists utilized what may be considered an “absolutist” or a value-based con-
ception of normative violation, wherein a particular behaviour or characteristic was per-
ceived as being inherently and universally deviant
-“absolute moral order” based upon the word of God, the laws of nature, or some other
immutable source
-cross-cultural and trans-historical norms prohibiting incest, murder, and lying are per-
ceived as evidence of this absolute order
-more modern objectivists view norms as culturally relative, based on a given society’s
moral code rather than on any type of absolute moral order
-different punishment for normative violations emerge from the existence of various
types of norms ranging folkways, to morés, to laws
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