Social deviance is a term that refers to forms of behaviour and qualit
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Social deviance is a term that refers to forms of behaviour and qualities of persons
that others in society devalue and discredit. So what exactly is deviance? In this
particular essay we are concerned with social deviance. Not physiological
deviations from the expected norm. In general, any behaviour that does not
conform to social norms is deviance. That is behaviour that violates significant
social norms and is disapproved of by a large number of people as a result.
For societies to run with some semblance of order the problem of deviance is
essential and intrinsic to any conception of social order. It is problematic because it
causes a disruption, but it is essential because it defines our boundaries as a
society. It is intrinsic to a conception of order in that defining what is real and
expected, defining what is acceptable, and defining who we are - always done in
opposition to what is unreal, unexpected, unacceptable and who we are not. If we
can accept the reality of change, then designations of deviance are crucial in
locating the shifting boundaries of our socially structured reality. (Erikson, 1964)
What is perceived as deviant behaviour is subject to change depending on our
position, place and time. Different cultures have different levels of social order and
control, therefore making what can be seen as a deviant behaviour in one culture
highly acceptable in another.
When we define someone or some group as deviant - we strengthen our own
position and simplify our response to the "other": we can ignore, expunge,
destroy, or rehabilitate them. We convince ourselves of our own normalcy by
condemning and controlling those who disagree. Deviance is a phenomenon
situated in power: Winners are the good and the normal; Losers are the sick, the
crazy, the evil. Deviance, therefore exists in opposition to those who attempt to
control it - to those who have power. (Phofl, 1994)
Deviance is not a matter of the cost or consequences of a particular behaviour, or
the behaviour itself. Deviance is a label used to maintain the power, control, and
position of a dominant group. It is a negotiated order. Deviance violates
some groups assumptions about reality (social order). It violates expectations. The
definition of deviance defines the threat and allows for containment and control of
the threat. The definition of deviance preserves, protects, and defines group
interests and in doing so maintains a sense of normalcy. It is a product of
social interaction. (Erikson 1964)
Sociologists have said that deviance is a social reality, that it is shared and learned
like any aspect of culture.
Emile Durkheim and other functionalists posed the notion that deviance is
functional. He asserted that:
1. Deviance acts as a safety valve
2. Deviance inspires creativity
3. Deviance creates social change
4. Deviance outlines boundaries and rules
5. Deviance can promote social solidarity. (Haralambos,
Holborn,van Krieken, Smith, 1996)
Chicago school sociologists believed that any region that was physically separated
from the others was viewed as a natural area. Within each of these areas are moral,
social and structural orders. That is, a set of customs, rules, or regulations that
control the process of competition and cooperation.
Theorists of the Chicago school believed that deviance resulted from disorganised
areas (which they believed would be characterised with physical deterioration,
economic deprivation, poverty, racial and ethnic heterogeneity, turnover,
alienation, high rate of suicide.). The weak community integration led to the
formation of and higher rates of deviance. Overtime these theorists backed away
from the idea that these areas are disorganised and instead argued that they were
differently organised. Deviance was a by-product of different social organisation.
This move allowed researchers to see deviant behaviour as something that was
caused by society and culture rather than individual defects. (Becker, 1963)
Society is a structure of relatively isolated subcultures, each with its own values,
norms, and way of life. In the context of this differential social organisation deviant
behaviour is created
Although crime seems to be ubiquitous, we often know very little about how our
perceptions of crime are created, maintained, or modified. We do know that there
is no single objective definition of crime. Our views about crime and criminals
are determined by our social milieu - this is the social reality of crime.
What is our informal consensual understanding of the reality
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Criminology, Deviance, Norm, Labeling theory, Deviant, Anomie, Social control, mile Durkheim, Social order, Differential association, Robert K. Merton, Structural functionalism
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