Are certain types of crime "normal" in any society, and what do societies do to enforce their norms? Although rates of crime, especially murder and various forms of juvenile crime, are declining rapidly those with the lowest rates of poverty and the most generous social welfare systems, experience some crime. And all societies tend to experience particular patterns of crime. This suggests that there are ways in which crime is a "normal" occurrence in society, and that the norms societies establish to combat crime or to prevent people from becoming criminals also serve to reinforce beliefs and values about good and bad behavior. All societies condemn murder, but in Islamic society a women can become deviant by wearing a short skirt, while in Western societies a person can drink alcohol in moderation but not consume cocaine or other intoxicants, which are considered a threat to social stability. Patterns of taboo also create illicit markets, which some individuals and groups may find attractive, especially if other routes to income or status are blocked. This chapter develops these and other aspects of the study of deviance in more detail, but an initial discussion of the central questions of this fascinating subifield of sociology will start your students thinking in new ways about familiar subjects. Lecture Outline I. What Is Deviance? A. Deviance is behavior that violates the norms of a particular society. A deviant peron is one who violates or opposes a societ's most valued norms. B. The ways in which a society prevents deviance and punishes deviants are know as social control. Police, prisons, and mental hospitals are among the official instritutions responsible for applying social control. Less threatening forms of deviance are controlled through everyday interactions of individuals. II. Dimensions of Deviance A. Three dimensions--power, culture, and voluntary versus involuntary behavior--are the major determinants operating to produce the forms of deviance that are typical of a particular society. B. The term stigma refers to a personal attribute that is deeply discrediting. Stigmatized individuals may deviate from some societal norms but are not necessarily social deviants. True social deviants are people whose acts constitute a denial of the social order. C. Crime is usually defined as an act, or the omission of an act, for which the state can apply sanctions. But which behaviors constitute crime, and wht degree of sanction is appropriate, are controversial questions. 1. Many sociologists claim sthat some crimes are victimless. Others argue that even victimless crimes inflict damage on society. 2. The most serious, most frequently occurring crimes are called index crimes because they are included in the FBI's crime index. D. Deviant behaviors can be categorized in terms of the degree of consensus on whether they are deviant and on the appropriate degree of sanction. As a culture's values and norms change, so do its notions of what kinds of behavior are deviant and how strongly they should be sanctioned. E. Individuals may belong to a subculture in which a particualr form of deviant behavior is practiced. Although the group's behavior may be deviant according to the norms of society, the behavior of its members is not considered deviant within the group. III. Perspectives on Deviance A. Biological Explanation of Crime 1. Cesare Lombroso claimed to have proved that criminals were throwbacks to jprimitive, aggressive human types. 2. William Sheldon postulated that body type was correlated with crime. 3. Some modern researchers have concluded that both biology and social environment play a role in producing criminals. B. Robert Merton constructed a typology based on the theory that some social structures exert pressure toward crime or conformity. He hypothesized that people who do not accept cultural goals or the accepted means of achieving them would follow other--possibly criminal or deviant--alternatives. C. Cultural conflict can lead to situations that encourage ciminal activity, as can be seen in the example of Prohibition. D. Marxian sociologists believe that legal definitions of deviant behavior are imposed by the rich and powerful to protect their own interests. Definitions of criminal behavior are applied more forcefully for the poorand the working class. E. Recruitment is a term that refers to the question of why some, but not all, people in a given social situation become deviants. Production is a term that describes the creation of new categories of deviance in a society. 1. Edwin Sutherland argued that whether a person becomes a criminal or not is determined largely by the comparative frequency and intimacy of his or her contacts with criminal or law-abiding behavior. This process is called differential association. 2. According to ineractionists, deviance is produced by a process called labeling, meaning societal reaction to certain behaviors that labels the offender as deviant. IV. Crime and Social Control A. As societies become more complex, they develop specialized, more or less coercive institutions to regulate their members' behavior. B. Advocates of capital punishment claim that it deters people from committing terrible crimes, but this claim is not supported by ;research findings. C. Prisons are total institutions whose functions are said to be deterrence, rehabilitation, and retribution. 1. Sociologists who have studied prisons agree that the least successful aspect of prison life is rehabilitation. 2. The term recidivism refers to the tendency for people convicted of a crime to repeat their crime or another one after a term of imprisonment.
Access to Justice Network:
ACJNET Justice Databses: