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defining deviance, typology, theories, functions

Relativist viewpoint of deviance

- no universal feature of deviance
- deviance is relative to time, place, and across culture

Normative definition of deviance

- deviance is the violation of social norms that vary over time, across and within cultures/societies

Proscriptive norm

societal rules that tell you what you should not do in the world (folkways, mores, laws, taboos)

prescriptive norm

societal rules that tell you what you should do

within society normative variation

range of acceptance, enforcement, transmission, conformity required

Reactive definition of deviance

- deviance determined by reactions of others


any attitude, behavior, or condition considered to be a norm violation by public consensus (ranges from low to high); incorporates relativism (time and place matters), normative behavior (violation of norms on public consensus?) and reactive definition (response of audience)

ABCs of deviance

attitude, behavior, condition (physicality of self that's debatable for deviance)

Typology of deviance: Consensus crime

high agreement of deviance, harmful for society, severe social response. Hurt not only victim but broader e.g. family and society (rape, murder)

Typology of deviance: Conflict crimes

b/w somewhat and very harmful to society/agreement, moderate social response (abortion, drug use, assisted suicide)

Typology of deviance: Social deviation

b/w relatively harmless and somewhat harmful, somewhat disagreement to sometimes confusion or apathy, moderate severity (low level thefts, underaged drinking, speeding)

Typology of deviance: Social diversion

absolute confusion or apathy, mild severity, relatively harmless (folkways violation, subculture (fork tongue, colored hair, weird tattoos)

Positivist Theory of Deviance

- look for social factors that drive people to deviance
- ask what causes strain and learning

Positivist theory of deviance: Strain theory

Anemie strain: people become deviant when experience strain, which is due to goals/means gap

Goals/Means to Strain Explanation of Positivist theory

- Every society sets goals for people (wealth) and approved means for achieving goals (education, job).
- Goals/means not equally distributed in society (even though society may claim otherwise)
- Strain arises because of goals/means gap

Conformity in terms of goals/means (wealth example)

accepts goals and achieve goals by following approved means (wants wealth, get education and job)

Innovation in terms of goals/means (wealth example)

Accepts goals but deviates from approved means to achieve goal (wants wealth but don't want education/job: ex. prostitution, drug dealing)

Ritualism in terms of goals/means (wealth example)

Deviates from goals but conforms to means (getting a job to earn money but not necessarily to become wealthy: ex. Peace Corps)

Retreatism in terms of goals/means

ignore means and goals (accepts goal but don't want to try to achieve it)

Rebellion in terms of goals/means

reject goals and want to replace them (counterculture)

Positivist Theory of Deviance: Learning theory

- explains how people end up into Merton's box
- differential association: techniques, motives, rationalizations, etc. for deviance can be learned through interactions with deviant; associations can vary with teacher

Variables that affect teacher/student associations in differential associations

frequency (how often interaction is), duration (how long in contact with teacher), priority (primary, secondary, tertiary socialization), intensity (feelings about teacher)

differential opportunity

opportunity to learn specific forms of deviance are unequally distributed (ex. type of drugs use/deal, types of good to steal)

Constructionist theory of deviance

-deviance definition created by society; audience involved in creation of deviant
- labeling and conflict theory

Constructionist theory of deviance: labeling theory

- deviance manifests in interaction between a deviant, the audience, and whatever the audience attributes to behavior
- those with power labels powerless
- focuses on what audience thinks/meanings audience give, not much what deviant does

What does labeling result in

stigma, self-fulfilling prophecy


attribute that disqualifies one from social acceptance

types of stigma

- abomination of body (physicality e.g. scars, disability that defines deviance)
- blemish of individual's character
- tribal stigmas: stigmatized by group you belong to

Self-fulling prophecy

when we attach a label to someone and the individual internalize the label and start to live up to it

Constructionist theory of deviance: conflict theory

- deviance arises from conflict between the powerful and powerless
- legal reality theory (Chambliss)

two types of laws

1. law on the book (written law; idea that people will be equally treated)
2. law in action: how law practiced daily (injustice; powerful treated better than powerless)

organizational imperative

enforcement of law; injustice in enforcement because enforcing groups (police) have to keep powerful pleased so crack down on powerless

Deviant identities

- discredited: when people know of deviant
- discreditable: when deviance is a secret from public

Strategies to manage deviant identities

secrecy, withdrawal, preventive telling

Strategy of Deviant Identity Management: Secrecy

- deviant try to pass as normal by avoiding stigma symbols (clues that allow people to see deviance)
- use disidentifiers (status symbols that misdirects people to actual identity)
- identity substitution (substitute less deviant identity)

Strategy of Deviant Identity Management: withdrawal

- avoids audience so hey wouldn't stigmatize
- joins expressive group (non-political group devoted to you)
- joins instrumental groups (political group for cause; activist)

Strategy of Deviant Identity Management: Preventive Telling

tell public about deviance to avoid feelings that may result from secrecy and withdrawal


status symbols that misdirects people to real identity

identity substitution

substituting less deviant identity (ex. alcoholic would say that s/he only drinks a little each day or only on weekends)

primary deviance

first time you deviate

secondary deviance

second time you deviate and consequent times after

Functions of deviance

- there is deviance in every society
- deviance is helpful to society (Durkheim)
- deviance create cohesion, clarification, and change

Function of deviance: cohesion

brings "good" people of different races, religions, statuses together when pointing a finger at deviant

Function of deviance: clarification

deviance aid in defining norms and what's deviance; define who we are/aren't as humans and what we should/shouldn't do

Function of deviance: change

deviance help propel us forward (ex. creation of new laws, new consensus on issues)

Theory of Control/Deterrence Doctrine

- punishments are arranged to deter someone from doing something
- punishment has to be certain (zero-tolerance), swift (no lag time, immediate effect), severe
- theory assumes that violators are rational

social control/sanctioning

- informal (not written e.g comments, looks)
- formal (written- anything that goes to permanent records)

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