Deviance and Social Control


	A. Deviant behavior is behavior that violates social norms and
           values shared by people in a particular culture.
		1.  Sociologists do not use the term 'deviant' to make
                    a moral judgment, but to refer to behavior that differs 
                    from particular cultural norms and values.
		2.  Crime is a form of deviance consisting of acts that 
                    violate norms which have been enacted into criminal law.
		3.  There are important pressures for conformity; yet deviance 
                    also flourishes in all societies.  One reason is that 
                    contemporary cultures also encourage its members to 
                    express their individuality.

	B. Modern societies are pluralist; they comprise  groups with diverse 
           and often conflicting norms and values.
		1. Different groups have different definitions of deviance.
		2. Also, some concepts of deviance are contested; for 
                   example the murder or killing is considered deviant; this 
                   co-exists with capital punishment.  Yet even those states 
                   that allow capital punishment rarely practice it.
		3. Consensus is rare; what is deviance depends ultimately 
                   on who has the power to make the label stick.

	C.  under certain circumstances, what appears to be deviant in most 
            situations can become normal; this is true even of such horrific 
            acts such as genocide, the institutionalized practice of systematically 
            killing the members of a particular racial, religious, or ethnic group.
		1. According to Hannah Arendt, Adolph Eichmann, the German 
                   overseer of the Nazi plan to exterminate Jews, gypsies and 
                   homosexuals, was not a unique monster but rather an average 
                   bureaucrat.  She called this revelation -- that acts of terror 
                   are not extraordinary but relatively easily undertaken under 
                   the property of circumstances --  the 'banality of evil.'
		2. Arendt's insight is corroborated by Christopher Browning's 
                   account of the 'ordinary' lower-middle and working-class men 
                   who comprised on e of the German police units responsible for 
                   executing Jews in Poland.


	A. Early studies of deviance favored biological analyses, arguing that 
           body type, genes, or mental capacity could be correlated with deviant 
	B. Sociobiologists, who attempt to find the genetic origins of behavior, 
           conducted studies of twins to determine rates of deviance among those 
           with similar and identical genes.
		1. Some similarities have been found by analyzing the criminal 
                   history of twins, although sociologists have criticized such 
                   studies for failing to account for the large majority of cases 
                   where one twin had a criminal record and the other did not.
		2. Secondly, correlation's with biological factors tend to be low 
                   and these studies ignore types f deviance that do not fit the 
                   theory (such as white-collar crime)		
		3. Finally, most studies examine those who are already incarcerated, 
                   thus disregarding the sociological process of law enforcement.

	A. Functionalist theory attempts to explain the presence of deviance in 
           society in terms of the function it serves for society as a whole.
	B. Emile Durkheim, the founder of functionalism, argued that deviance serves 
           the function of defining the moral boundaries of society.		
		1. According to Durkheim, societies share a consensus on normalcy and 
                   deviance.  When the consensus breaks down, anomie (the absence of 
                   clear-cut norms, or normlessness) is the result.
		2. Society provides a sense of what is normal and acceptable behavior 
                   through, in part, identifying and punishing what is not normal.

	C. Robert K. Merton adapted Durkeim's notion of anomie  to provide a functionalist 
           explanation of deviance.
		1. According to Merton, structural strain creates a form of anomie that 
                   occurs when a gap exists between the goals society sets for people to 
                   achieve and the means society provides for people to achieve those 
		2. Those without the means to achieve society's goals may resort to one
                   of four types of deviant behavior:  innovation, ritualism, retreatism, 
                   or rebellion.
		3. Merton's strain theory is undermined by the fact that groups with 
                   access to the social means to achieve their goals still commit many 
                   deviant acts.
	D. Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin argue that the existence of a 
           particular opportunity structure will help to shape the type of 
           deviance that occurs.
		1. Not everyone has equal access to deviant options; people 
                   who are acquainted with bank robbers are more likely to 
                   see bank robbing as a solution than those who have never 
                   met a bank robber.
	E. Control theories of deviance argue that the cause of deviance is 
           to be found in interpersonal attachments.		
		1. Gottfriedson and Hirschi theorized that forming strong 
                   social bonds with others who disapprove of deviance will 
                   keep a person's desire to engage in deviant acts under control.
		2. Control theorist point out that most deviant acts are 
                   spontaneous acts.
	A. Conflict theorists reject the notion that society is a unitary 
           organism based on a consensus, arguing instead that it is characterized 
           by conflictive differences, including different conceptions of deviance.
		1. Certain acts come to be defined as deviant for the society as a 
                   whole because those with power have the ability to make and 
                   enforce their own notions  of deviance.
		2. Nevertheless, ruling definitions of deviance can be challenged 
                   by those who have less power, as occurred during the civil rights 
                   movement of the  1950's and 1960's.
		3. Also, while there may be many instances of deviance defined in 
                   ways that serve the interests of ruling groups, there are 
                   instances where wealthy and powerful people -- including a U.S. 
                   President -- have been held accountable for their deviant acts.
	B. Structural contradiction theory argues that conflicts generated by 
           fundamental contradictions in the structure of society are an important 
           source of deviant behavior.

		1. For example, for a capitalistic society to thrive, firms 
                   must simultaneously promote the notion that people must engage 
                   in virtually unlimited consumption to be happy, while keeping 
                   wages and salaries down lest rising labor costs undermine 
		2. The structural contradictions of capitalism then can lead 
                   to declining incomes, job loss, and inequality making it 
                   difficult for people to consume all they've been socialized 
                   into believing is necessary.  This, in turn, leads to a wide 
                   variety of deviant behavior, from defaulting on one's bills 
                   to cheating on taxes to outright theft.

	A. Labeling theory holds that deviance is the result of the labels 
           attached to us by others.
		1. Primary deviance occurs when an activity is labeled 
                   as deviant by others
		2. Secondary deviance occurs when a person labeled as 
                   deviant accepts the label as  part of his or her 
                   identity, and begins to conform to it.
		3. William Chambliss' study of two teenage gangs illustrates 
                   selective labeling according to social class.  Although 
                   both gangs were equally involved in deviant behavior, 
                   only the lower-class gang members were labeled as deviant.

	B. Cultural transmission theory suggests that deviant behavior is 
           learned through interaction with others, such that subcultural 
           behaviors can be normative for certain groups and deviant according 
           to others.

		1. Differential association holds that deviant behavior 
                   is largely the result of associating with other persons 
                   whose behavior is deviant.

 	C. Symbolic interactionism accounts for all forms of behavior, 
           explaining how all norms and values are learned, deviant and 

		1. It there fore cannot explain why deviance is more prevalent 
                   in some groups than others, why some deviant behavior tends 
                   to diminish with age, or why it is that some groups have more 
                   power to label than others.


	A. Feminist criminologists point out that studies of deviance are 
           biased because almost all of the research is on males.
		1. By ignoring the female population, variation in rates 
                   of deviance by gender are not explained.
	B. Feminist theory incorporates gender-specific socialization, labeling, and victimization into theories of deviance.

Links to Crime and Deviance Sites on the Web:

American Society of Criminology:
U.S. Department of Justice:
Federal Bureau of Investigations:
National Criminal Justice Association:
National Institute on Drug Abuse:

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Last revised - February 15, 1998