What is deviance?


Perspectives on Deviance:

        Order Theorists: They focus on the deviants themselves and suggest inadequate socialization as the cause.   Rehabilitation (incarceration, mental hospitals, drugs, etc.) to “help” deviants conform to societal norms is the remedy. 

Punishing the deviant is an expression of collective indignation and reaffirms the rules.

The established order is protected and the government, the economy, system of stratification, the system of justice, and educational system are free from blame.  Norms that may be racist or sexist go unchallenged.  There is little sympathy for government programs to increase welfare for the poor.

        Conflict Theorists: They believe the established system is the primary source of social problems and it, not the individual deviant, must be restructured.  Though it may be worthwhile to explore the situation of the deprived in a success-oriented society, the conflict view will question the viability of a social system with such a value at it core.

Taken too far, this position views individuals as robots controlled totally by their social environment.  To what degree are people responsible for their behavior?

“When there is no longer the need for one class to dominate another, when there is no longer the need for a legal system to secure the interests of capitalist ruling class, then there will no longer be the need for crime” (Quinney, 1974).  Is this a statement of faith?

        Labeling Theory:  This view stresses the importance of the society defining what is illegal and in assigning deviant status to particular individuals, which in turn dominates their identities and behaviors.

Who gets labeled as deviant is not just a matter of luck or random selection but the result of a systematic societal bias against the powerless.  The well-to-do are much more likely to avoid the label of criminal.


A Solution to Deviance:

        Radical Nonintervention View: Policies should accommodate society to the widest possible diversity of behaviors and attitudes.  A strategy to leave juvenile delinquents alone as much as possible, for example, rather than giving them a negative label.  Treat fewer acts as criminal or deviant.  “Banish the concept of deviance.”


For thought:

        Why are school shootings taking place?

        Who is the deviant in war—the person who kills the enemy or the person who refuses to kill the enemy?