Deviance refers to behavior or characteristics that violate significant social norms and expectations and are negatively valued by large numbers of people as a result. Deviants are those who violate these shared
Conformity refers to behavior that is universally accepted, approved, or expected within society. Norms, which guide action and behavior, help to ensure conformity.
Social controls are mechanisms for maintaining social norms. They may be either:
- Informal (internal) social controls - include significant others and relies on successful socialization. These are generally effective and inexpensive.
- Formal (external) social controls - include structures or institutions that enforce norms or laws of society (e.g., police and courts). These are generally ineffective and expensive.
Formal social controls can be either:
- repressive - tend to have extraordinary powers to detect and enforce a wide range of behaviors or conduct (common in authoritarian societies)
- restrained - permits social control agent less power and authority in regulating behavior (common in democratic societies)
- Crimes refer to violations of norms that are formally enacted into criminal law by local, state, and federal governments.
- Criminal justice system refers to the formal system that responds to alleged violations of the law using police, courts, and punishment.
- The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) is the major source of information on crimes reported in the United States. The UCR focuses on eight major crimes, called index crimes:
- Motor Vehicle Theft
- Felony - a serious crime for which punishment typically ranges from more than a year's imprisonment to death (e.g., rape, homicide, aggravated assault)
- Misdemeanor - a minor crime that is typically punished by less than one year in jail
Sociologists examine many types of crime:
- Crimes against the person (violent crimes)
- Crimes against property (property crimes)
- "Victimless" crimes
- White collar crimes
- Political crimes
- Organized crime
- Juvenile delinquency
Four Justifications of Criminal Punishment
- Retribution - imposes a penalty on the offender. Retribution is based on the premise that the punishment should fit the crime.
- Deterrence - seeks to reduce criminal activity by instilling a fear of punishment. Criminologists have debated whether imprisonment has a deterrent effect, given that 30 to 50 percent of those released from prison become recidivists (i.e., repeat offenders)
- Rehabilitation - seeks to return offenders to the community as law-abiding citizens
- Social protection - focuses on restricting offenders so that they can not commit further crimes
Theories of Deviance
- Biological Theories - explain nonconformity in terms of genetic flaws, regressive physical features, racial or sex differences, or hormonal imbalances
- Psychological Theories - describe deviance in terms of moral flaws, psychological personality disorders, or personal incompetencies
- Sociological Theories - view deviance in terms of social and cultural context and examines structural factors
Sociological Theories of Deviance
- Symbolic Interactionist Perspective
- Cultural Transmission Theory
- Control Theory
- Labeling Theory
- Functionalist Perspective
- Structural Strain Theory
- Illegitimate Opportunity Theory
- Conflict Perspective
- Social Inequality and Deviance
- Capitalism and Deviance
Differential Association or Cultural Transmission
- Differential association refers to how some people -- those having closer contact with a subculture -- come to reflect the deviant norms by which they are socialized.
- Differential association theorists claim that subcultures may teach norms for behavior defined as deviant by the larger culture.
- Labeling theory states that deviance is a socially constructed process in which social control agencies designate certain people as deviants, who, in turn, come to accept the label placed upon them and begin to act accordingly.
- Labeling theorists focus on the process of becoming deviant. Behavior is not deviant in and of itself; rather, it is defined as such by a social audience.
- Primary deviance - the initial act of rule breaking
- Secondary deviance - occurs when a person who has been labeled a deviant accepts that new identity and continues the deviant behavior
- Control theorists take deviance for granted and concentrate instead on explaining why people conform.
- Control theorists argue that conformity occurs when people have more to gain by it than they do by deviance; that is, they have a stake in conformity.
- According to Travis Hirschi, conformity arises from four types of social controls:
- attachment to other people
- commitment to conformity
- involvement in conventional activities
- belief in the legitimacy of conventional values and norms
Structural Strain Theory
- According to strain theory, people feel strain when they are exposed to cultural goals that they are unable to obtain because they do not have access to culturally approved means of achieving those goals.
- Examples of approved cultural goals include monetary success, affluent standard of living, and consumption. Examples of institutionalized or legitimate means include wage labor, self-employment, or "an honest day's work."
Functionalist Perspective of Deviance
- Durkheim: "The Normal and the Pathological"
- The social functions of deviance:
- Deviance reaffirms and reinforces norms
- Deviance promotes social solidarity
- Deviance creates many jobs
- Deviance has a "safety valve effect"
- Deviance leads to innovation and social change
- The social functions of deviance:
Conflict Perspective of Deviance
- Conflict theories of deviance contend that the rich and powerful have a disproportionate ability to:
- define what is and is not considered deviant, and
- thus, determine who is and is not considered deviant.
- Conflict theories call attention to the connections between social inequality and definitions of deviance.
- Deviance and Capitalism: Those people who run the risk of being labeled deviant are those who impede the operation of capitalism.
- The differential persecution of white-collar crime