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Chapter 2

Sociology 2259 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Scapegoating, Enemy Image, Medieval Commune

Course Code
SOC 2259
Kim Luton

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Chapter 2- Explaining Deviance: The Act
Theorizing Deviance
-theory provides us with the central means of explaining and understanding deviance
-scientific theories of crime have existed for almost a century
-scientific study of criminality is recognized as beginning with the work of Cesare Lom-
broso in the early 20th century
-explained criminality on the basis of evolution- suggest that criminals were atavists-
evolutionary throwbacks whose biology prevented them from conforming to society’s
-Goring believed just as biological traits were inherited, so was social behaviour
-by mid-century, social theories of crime had largely replaced biological theories, and
theorizing about non-criminal forms of deviance gained prominence as well
-although the debate continues over whether there is a distinct body of deviance theory,
there is no doubt that deviance specialists, whether they focus on criminal or non-crimi-
nal forms of deviance, utilize a wide range of theory: general sociological theories (e.g.
conflict theory), specific criminological theories (e.g. Strain Theory), and interdisciplinary
theories (e.g. feminist theories)
-multiple coexisting explanations for the same phenomenon
-each theory provides us with one way of looking at a certain aspect of deviance, but
no single theory can explain all of the components that make up deviance as a whole
-social theories can be classified as positivist, interpretive, or critical
-positivist theories take more objective ways of recognizing deviance, including views
based on normative violation, statistical rarity, harm, and societal reaction
-each of these definitions of deviance suggest that there is an inherent deviancy is a
certain trait
-emerging from this core idea is an interest in finding out why people become deviant
-interpretive and critical theories take more subjective approaches when looking at
deviance, suggesting that the only characteristic all deviant people have in common is
that enough important people have said they are deviant
-emerging from this core idea is an interest in exploring the social typing process- the
process through which deviance and normality are socially constructed- who becomes
typed as deviant, how are they treated, and what rationales are offered? In what way
does power influence societal perceptions of and reactions to particular behaviours?
-significant trend in theorizing is that of theoretical integration- combining aspects of dif-
ferent theories in order to explain a particular phenomenon
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-positivist, interpretive, and critical theories may be integrated in multiple combinations
Why Do People Become Deviant?
Using Positivist Theories
-positive sociological theories are fundamentally interested in explaining why people act
in particular ways
-universal laws that govern the environment
-positivist sociological theories are in the pursuit of planning for a better society
-positivist explanations of deviance are inevitable coupled with efforts at social control
Functionalist Theories
-functionalist theories, which in the past were also called structural functionalist theo-
ries, dominated the discipline until the mid-20th century
-society is seen as being comprised of various structures (e.g. the family; the educa-
tion system; the political system), each of which fulfills necessary functions for the
smooth running of the social order
-some are manifest functions- intended and recognized
-others are latent functions- unintentional and unrecognized
-e.g. post-secondary education is to train young adults for employment, latent function
is providing individuals with social networks
-smooth running of society is threatened if one of its structures has a poor fit with the
other structures that make up society
-core concerns of the functionalist perspective is the maintenance of the social order
-the rules exist because we agree they should exist; we agree they should exist be-
cause they serve a useful purpose for society
-Talcott Parsons and Robert Bales (1955) suggest that traditional gender roles- men re-
sponsible for instrumental tasks (breadwinning) and women are responsible for expres-
sive tasks (e.g. nurturing the children) are functional for society because they ensure
that the division of labour in the family is done efficiently
-challenging traditional gender roles may therefore interfere with the social order and
threaten the equilibrium of society
-alternatively, it may be that a part of the structure of society has become dysfunctional,
which is causing people to break the rules
Durkheim: Anomie Theory
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