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Deviance and Social Control
Deviance- violation of the norms
Sociologist Howard Becker (1966) “not the act itself but the reaction to the act that makes something deviant”
Relativity of deviance acceptable in one culture is deviant in another- this statement is true within societies. Deviance is relative
Specific form of deviance is crime- a violation of rules that are written into law
Sociologists do not view deviance as a bad thing- it is just acts that people see as negative- all of us are deviant at one time or another
Stigma characteristic that discredits people- includes violations of norms of ability (handicap), appearance (obesity) and being an involuntary member (AIDS victim)
Some stigmas can become a persons master status
Norms make life predictable by making behavior predictable
We are socialized to follow norms, play basic roles that society assigns us.
Norms bring social order, a groups customary social arrangement.
Deviance undermines this predictability
Groups develop a systems of social control , formal and informal ways of enforcing norms
Sanctions- expressions of disapproval of deviance bring negative sanctions- range from frowns (breaking folkways) to imprisonment (breaking mores). Positive sanctions are used to reward for conforming to the norms. Most negative sanctions are informal.
Shaming- effective when members of a primary group use it. Often used to keep children in line and small communities. Shaming can be part of a public ritual
Degradation Ceremony- a formal attempt to brand somebody as an outsider. Individual is stripped of their identity as a group member. This dramatizes that the member is no longer part of the group
Sociobiologists look for explanations within people
Assume that people have genetic predispositions. Sociologists argue that genetics have little influence on deviance
Psychologists focus on the abnormalities within individuals. Examine personality disorders. Sociologists dispute that deviant individuals fit a particular personality
Sociologists search for factors outside the individual. They look for social influences that recruit people to break norms
Symbolic Interactionists argue that we act according to our interpretations of situations
Differential Association Theory
Edwin Sutherland developed the theory-we learn deviance from the different groups we associate with
Give us messages about conformity and deviance
We receive an imbalance of these messages one way or another that tilts us in one direction
Factors that influence us- family, friends, neighbors, subcultures
Family is the primary agent of socialization, difference whether we learn deviance or conformity.
Studies have proven that families involved in crime, have lawbreaking children
Neighborhoods- people want to move our of “bad” neighborhoods keep children away from corrupting influences
Some neighborhoods develop subcultures of violence (gangs, mafia)
People have choice in the groups we associate with- we produce our own orientations to life
Control Theory (Walter Reckless)
We have two control systems that work against our motivation to deviate.
Inner Control-internalized morality- conscience, religious principles, ideas of right and wrong
Outer Controls-consist of people- family, friends, police officers, etc. that influence us most not to deviate
The stronger our bonds are with society the more effective our inner controls (attachments, commitments and involvements)
Attachments – feeling affection and respect for people that conform to mainstream norms
Commitments- having a stake in society that you don’t want to risk
Involvements- putting time an energy into approved activities
Control theory how we learn self- control. Learning self control is achieved through socialization
Labels- names, reputations, etc. we are given, become part of our self- concept
Most people resist negative labels by others
Some people that are deviant do not view themselves that way. The deflection of societies norms are rationalized in the five techniques of neutralization-denial of responsibility, denial of injury, denial of a victim, condemnation of condemners, appeal to higher loyalties
Stress the functions of deviance to society (Durkheim)
It is essential to the social order
Clarifies moral boundaries and affirms norms
Promotes social unity
Promotes social change
Functionalists see crime as a natural part of society. Mainstream values generate crime
Strain theory was developed by Robert Merton (1956) to explain this:
When society socializes large numbers of people to desire a cultural goal (success) but withholds the means of reaching that goal to many people. An adaptation to meet the goal is crime (outside of the approved system). To attain the cultural goal.
People who experience the strain feel anomie (a sense of normlessness)
Mainstream norms aren’t getting them anywhere, find it difficult to identify with these norms, feel wronged by the system, rules are illegitimate
People match their goals to their means through five ways- conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreats, rebellion where they accept, reject or replace cultural norms
Innovation- accept goals but use illegitimate means to reach them
Ritualism- give up on achieving goals but survive by following rules of their job (job burnout)
Retreats- reject cultural and societal goals and the means of achieving them- alcoholics, drug addicts and nuns that enter convents are examples
Rebellion- reject societies goals . They seek to give societies new goals. Revolutionaries are an example
Social classes have distinct styles of crime because of the unequal access to institutional means.
The illegitimate opportunity structure is the term given to the opportunity for crime woven into the texture of life
Industrialized societies socialize all classes into the desire for material possessions (all Americans can afford society’s goods and services)
Education the most common route to success, not an option for the poor
School system is out of touch with the poor- closes the door to them as a legitimate avenue to success
Urban slums there is an opportunity –crime (drug dealing, prostitution, burglary, gambling)
The “hustler” is viewed as a role model- the image of easy money, only ones seen as coming close to the ideal of success
More privileged classes have different opportunities for crime
White collar crime (embezzlement, money schemes opportunities encountered by these classes)
Another form is corporate crime committed by executives to benefit their corporation
White collar criminals rarely spend a day in jail even though it costs more than street crime
Most Americans are concerned with street crime and the disruption it will cause in their lives.
Conflict theorists- power and social inequality as the main characteristics of society.
Power elite that runs society also runs the criminal justice system.
Division between the haves and have nots
Those at the lower end of the scale are at the highest risk for poverty, prison
“Justice for all” myth promoted by the elite. Conflict theorists see the law as an instrument of oppression designed by the elite to maintain their position.
Criminal justice system does not focus on the corporate criminals, directs energies toward the working class.
When the corporate class is prosecuted and the case receives attention- stabilizes the justice system and provides evidence of “fairness”
To a conflict theorist this is a cultural device that the power elite uses to carry out self protective and repressive policies
Reaction to deviance from minor sanctions to death penalty
Past 20 years more and more people have been put in prison and three strikes laws have reduced early release.
At the same time the crime rate has dropped sharply.
Sociologists question if this has caused the drop in crime rates
Statistics demonstrate prisons fail to rehabilitate criminals.
Recidivism rate (prisoners that are rearrested) is high.
If the purpose of prisons is to keep people from being criminals, and to teach those that crime does not pay; are the prisons failing?
Capital punishment is the most extreme measure the state takes against criminals.
It is a very divisive issue on moral and philosophical grounds
The death penalty is not administered evenly
Factors like geography, social class gender are factors in who is given the death penalty
Shift in the way society deals with deviance
Mental Illness is when society “medicalizes” it
Medicalization of deviance created when psychoanalysis was founded in the late 1800’s,deviance related to mental illness was seen as a medical condition that needed to be treated
Some mental illness is organic and chemical (depression). Some are defined by society (ADD)
When something becomes deviant in ways that disturbs others and a satisfying explanation can’t be found to explain it, mental illness is seen as the cause
Thomas Szaz describes these as behaviors not mental illness. Szaz thinks that mental illness as an explanation is a myth to get nonconforming , or deviant individuals to conform, to accept societies definition of “normal”
Szaz explains that deviant or bizarre behavior depends on a person’s particular experience in life, not an illness in the mind.
Szaz’s research demonstrates the power of socialization and social structures that underlie deviant behavior