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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4 Primary Approaches:
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)
Ten Commandments (Exodus)
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)
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.
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)
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?
Sumner’s three dimensions of social norms:
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
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
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
Durkheim wants to know “What distinguishes crime from poor taste?”
Formal Negative Sanctions are applied when a threshold of collective sentiments is violated
A group with a distinctive way of life that maintains some ties to larger the society/culture
Positive & Negative
Formal & Informal
Sanctions are social devices used to communicate a group morality & produce conformity
Functions of Deviance:
(from Durkheim via Erikson Ch. 1)
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
Police, DEA, Counselors, Therapists, Doctors, Professors
-Visionaries, Revolutionaries, and Innovators
Jesus, Galileo, Jefferson, Darwin, Abolitionists, Suffragists, MLK
Whether (non) conformity is received positively or negatively is a question of Power & Self-interest.