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Approaches to Defining Deviance. 4 Primary Approaches: Absolutist: Deviant behavior constitutes actions that are in violation of a universal morality. By morality sociologists mean a belief system for distinguishing right/good from wrong/bad.

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Approaches to Defining Deviance

4 Primary Approaches:

Absolutist:

Deviant behavior constitutes actions that are in violation of a universal morality.

By morality sociologists mean a belief system for distinguishing right/good from wrong/bad.

Fails to take into account situational or contextual factors (cultural differences; historical factors)


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Western Judeo-Christian Absolutism

Ten Commandments (Exodus)

  • Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

  • Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image …

  • Thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy God in vain

  • Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy

  • Honor thy father and thy mother

  • Thou shalt not kill

  • Thou shalt not commit adultery

  • Thou shalt not steal

  • Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour

  • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, Etc.


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Approaches to Defining Deviance

Statistical:

Deviant behavior constitutes actions that are a numerical minority. Conformity is defined by majority behavior.

Majority rule, minority deviance

Criticism: What may be otherwise thought of (using a normative approach) as deviant behavior is from the statistical view “normative” because a numerical majority engages in the behavior in question

(e.g. pre-marital sex; minor delinquency; speeding; under-age drinking)


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Approaches to Defining Deviance

3) Reactivist:

Deviance is any behavior which produces a reaction. This puts the focus on those reacting rather than the “deviant”.

Highly situational/contextual (subjectivist).

Criticism: A norm violation is necessary before any reaction to deviance takes place.


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Approaches to Defining Deviance

4) Normative (objective):

Deviance is defined by violation of a social norm. Social norms can be identified in an objective way.

Contextual, but less so than the Reactivist approach

Deviance hinges on a group notion of:

what “ought” to be (Prescriptions)

What “should” not be (Proscriptions)

Norms require an undetermined but significant level of group Consensus

(indicating a shared or agreed upon view of the behavior)


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Issues to be Aware of in Defining Deviance

  • Individual properties relevant to a deviant status

    • Attitudes, Beliefs

    • Behavior

    • Conditional characteristics

      • Ascribed characteristics

      • Achieved

      • Choices or “agency”

  • Structural influences on deviance

    • Structural differences in life chances

    • Power differences in defining deviance

    • Cultural frameworks, which provide meaning

  • We will examine both levels and try to make connections (Structuration – Giddens)


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    How Distinct is Deviance?

    Ch 2 (Tittle & Paternoster) makes this point.

    They focus on middle class norms because society is too fractured from their view to hold a single set of norms applicable to all members of society.

    Do you agree?


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    Reading Homework

    • Read Chapter 2, “A Typology of Deviance Based on Middle Class Norms.”

      www.socqrl.niu.edu\miller\courses\soci380.html

    • 1. Do you agree with Tittle & Paternoster’s typology? WHY?

    • 2. What other values are missing from their list?

    • 3. What are the three most important values/norms in your life and why.


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    More on Norms

    Sumner’s three dimensions of social norms:

    • Folkways - concerned with minor, everyday conventions of behavior: etiquette, tradition, etc.

    • Mores - based upon larger societal level standards of morality.

    • Laws – strongest set of norms: formally codified, sanctioned, etc.


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    Folkways, Mores, and Law

    Emile Durkheim on Deviance: Part Reactivist, part Normative

    (Like Heckert & Heckert – Ch. 3)

    What distinguishes different behaviors from one another?

    Crime: Acts that violate collective sentiments

    Collective Sentiments:

    Beliefs shared by social groups; all social groups can be thought of as cultural communities

    Culture: the distinctive way of life for a group of people

    Altruistic Sentiment: Respect for that which is another’s

    Durkheim’s Assumptions about Human Nature


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    Durkheim on Deviance/Crime

    Defining characteristic of crime is punishment that follows a criminal act.

    The defining element is the social reaction to the act, especially the intensity of reaction.

    So crime (or deviance) is defined not by the properties of the behavior per se, but by the social response to the behavior.

    A social response communicates a morality lesson to the person and to the group


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    Altruistic Sentiment Scale

    Durkheim wants to know “What distinguishes crime from poor taste?”

    Poor taste

    Robbery

    low

    High

    Moral boundaries

    Formal Negative Sanctions are applied when a threshold of collective sentiments is violated


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    Notes on Moral Boundaries

    • Variable according to changes in collective sentiments

      • Definitions change over time

      • Change over social space (audiences vary)

    • Amount of deviance, however, is relatively stable

      • Across time and place

    • Subculture:

      A group with a distinctive way of life that maintains some ties to larger the society/culture

    • Sanctions:

      Positive & Negative

      Formal & Informal

      Sanctions are social devices used to communicate a group morality & produce conformity


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    Is deviance all that bad?

    Functions of Deviance:

    (from Durkheim via Erikson Ch. 1)

    -Boundary maintenance

    Defines how we should & shouldn’t act

    “Morality and immorality meet at the public scaffold”

    Significance of commitment ceremonies (punishment rituals)

    -Produces social cohesion

    Makes us feel like we are a part of the group

    -Creates jobs

    Police, DEA, Counselors, Therapists, Doctors, Professors

    -Visionaries, Revolutionaries, and Innovators

    Jesus, Galileo, Jefferson, Darwin, Abolitionists, Suffragists, MLK


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    What about “Positive” Deviance?

    • Heckert & Heckert (Ch. 3)

      • 2 Dimensions to Consider:

        • Norm violation? (Too much vs. Too little)

        • Reaction of an audience? (Positive vs. Negative)

    Whether (non) conformity is received positively or negatively is a question of Power & Self-interest.


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