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Conformity and Deviance. What is deviance? Theories of deviance. What is deviance?. “nonconformity to a given set of norms that are accepted by a significant number of people in a community or society” (p. 133). What is deviance?. Everyone violates norms. So who is deviant?

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Conformity and Deviance

  • What is deviance?

  • Theories of deviance


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What is deviance?

“nonconformity to a given set of norms that are accepted by a significant number of people in a community or society”

(p. 133)


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What is deviance?

  • Everyone violates norms.

  • So who is deviant?

  • “significant” is the key word; deviants are significantly in violation of norms


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What is deviance?

  • If deviance too widespread, some might be “normalized”

  • Groups that significantly violate norms of the wider society: deviant subcultures


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Theories of deviance

  • Biological

  • Psychological

  • Sociological


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Biological theories

  • Attempts to link physical traits with behavior go back to 19th century (Lombroso)

  • Mid-20th century theories linking physique with crime also discredited

  • Ongoing attempts to find sources of criminal (esp. “psychopathic”) behavior in brain structure, but no evidence of genetic basis for deviance


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Psychological theories

  • Psychopaths: withdrawn, emotionless, violent

  • These traits not restricted to criminals

  • Social response to the behavior just as important as the individual’s psychology; reciprocal effects


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Social control

  • Social control: social methods used to keep behavior within bounds

    • Sanctions: positive or negative, formal or informal reactions to behavior used to reinforce social norms

    • Ideally, people internalize norms through interaction with others (socialization)

  • Laws are the basis for external social control by the State

    • This tends to reinforce power of elites, according to “conflict” theorists

    • But even subcultures have their own norms; e.g., the code of the street

      • “a cultural adaptation to a profound lack of faith in the police and the judicial system…” (Anderson, 34)

      • “The code of the street thus emerges where the influence of the police ends and where personal responsibility for one’s own safety is felt to begin.” (ibid)


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Sociological theories

  • Durkheim

  • Merton

  • Differential association

  • Labeling

  • Social control theory


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Durkheim: why is crime “normal”?

  • A certain level of deviance is functional

    • Allows for innovation (adaptive function)

    • Promotes boundary maintenance

      • Helps us recognize what is normal (affirms norms;)

      • Enhances social solidarity

  • Therefore we can’t (or shouldn’t) completely eliminate deviance

  • Too much deviance, widespread acceptance is “pathological”; anomie (dysfunctional)


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Durkheim and deviance

norms

Norms affirmed; social solidarity enhanced.

Y

deviant

society

X X X

X X X

Normal people


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Merton: structural strain theory

Socially approved goals (values)

Socially approved means (norms)

Unequal access creates “structural strain”

Individuals experiencing structural strain must choose a “mode of adaptation” to the resulting anomie.



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Sutherland: differential association

  • Criminal (deviant) behavior is learned in primary groups where norms differ from those of wider society

  • Similar to Becker’s (1953) work on marijuana use, but Becker’s later (1963) study developed labeling theory (Giddens:140)


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Differential association

Dominant culture social norms

Deviant subculture social norms

X


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Becker: labeling theory

  • One learns how to smoke dope through a subculture

  • Deviance is a process of interaction between deviants and nondeviants (Giddens, 140)

  • Social structure gives some people the power to define others as deviant; e.g., “potheads”

  • The label is a stigma; a mark of social disgrace that changes social interaction and self image


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Lemert: labeling theory

  • Primary deviation: an initial act that violates social norms

  • Secondary deviation: the individual comes to accept the label, and acts accordingly


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Labeling theory

Powerful interests

Label

Primary deviation

Label accepted

Secondary deviation


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Control theory (new criminology)

  • Evidence that many crimes are situational, based on opportunity;

    • This results in “target hardening” in richer areas

    • Poorer sections left with more crime

    • Broken windows theory


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Macro-to-micro: Saints and Roughnecks

  • Class structure affects how deviance is handled

  • Similar behavior results in different outcomes

  • “saints” and “roughnecks” were labels

  • Labeling theory most widely used in sociology


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