Deviance, in a sociological context, describes actions or behaviors that violatesocial norms, including formally-enacted rules (e.g., crime), as well as informal violations of social norms (e.g., rejecting folkways and mores).
It is the purview of sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and criminologists to study how these norms are created, how they change over time and how they are enforced. Norms are rules and expectations by which members of society are conventionally guided. Deviance is an absence of conformity to these norms. Social norms differ from culture to culture. For example, a deviant act can be committed in one society that breaks a social norm there, but may be normal for another society.
Viewing deviance as a violation of social norms, sociologists have characterized it as “any thought, feeling or action that members of a social group judge to be a violation of their values or rules” or group “conduct that violates definitions of appropriate and inappropriate conduct shared by the members of a social system. The departure of certain types of behavior from the norms of a particular society at a particular time and “violation of certain types of group norms where behavior is in a disapproved direction and of sufficient degree to exceed the tolerance limit of the community.
Deviance as reactive construction Deviance is concerned with the process whereby actions, beliefs or conditions come to be viewed as deviant by others. Deviance can be observed by the negative, or a stigmatizing social reaction of others towards these phenomena. An example in many societies would be sexual acts that stray from opposite-gender interactions.
Criminal behavior, such as theft, can be deviant, but other crimes attract little or no social reaction, and cannot be considered deviant (e.g., violating copyright laws by downloading music on the internet).People may have a condition or disease which causes minor segments in a society to be potentially alienated, such as having HIV, dwarfism,facial deformities, or being obese. Deviance is relative to time and place because what is considered deviant in one social context may be non-deviant in another (e.g., fighting during a hockey game vs. fighting in a nursing home).
Killing another human is considered wrong except when governments permit it during warfare or for self-defence. The issue of social power cannot be divorced from a definition of deviance because some groups in society can criminalize the actions of another group by using their influence on legislators.
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Sociology of Deviance
The processes that divide society into different types of people and the social effects of these processes Deviance implies an alleged breach of a social norm.
There are two ways of studying deviance as a social phenomenon:
Approach deviance as objectively given;Approach deviance as subjectively problematic
Deviance as objectively given:
delineate the norms of society under study and regard any deviation from these norms as “deviant”; make 3 assumptions There is widespread consensus in the society in the realm of norms; this widespread agreement makes it relatively easy to identify deviance Deviance typically evokes negative sanctions such as gossip or legal action; Punishment meted out to the deviant reaffirms for the group that it is bound by a set of common norms.
Major questions raised by this approach are:
What sociocultural conditions are most likely to produce deviance?
Why do people continue to deviate despite the negative sanctions that are brought to bear on them?
How can deviance best be minimized or controlled?
Procedure For Studying Deviants
List the norms of the society or group;
Study official records kept on persons who violate these rules;
Try to discover the ways in which deviants and nondeviants differ to determine sociocultural conditions that seem to make deviant behavior more likely;
Try to derive a theory to explain the deviance and apply the theory for the correction and prevention of deviance.
Strength of the approach is the sharpness and simplicity with which it phrases questions.
Weaknesses of approach is that in a heterogeneous society, people often do not agree on norms; it is not easy to identify deviants since some get caught and others do not; social control agencies operate with selective enforcement so that some categories of people are more likely to be punished for their deviance.
Deviance as subjectively problematic: Focus on the social differentiation of deviants Assumptions:
When people and groups interact they communicate with one another by means of shared symbols; through symbolic communication, people are able to type one another and formulate their actions accordingly. Deviance can best be understood in terms of this process, that deviant labels are symbols that differentiate and stigmatize the people to whom they are applied.People act on the basis of such definitions by treating the alleged deviant differently from other people; the alleged deviant my also react to this definition. Focus on social definitions and how these influence social interactions
Focus on the perspectives and actions of those who define a person as deviant
Look at circumstances under which a person is cast into a deviant role, most likely to be set apart as deviant, what actions other take on the basis of that definition of a person, and the consequences of these actions.
Focus on the perspective and reactions of the person adjudged to be deviant
Consider how a person reacts to being adjudged, how a person adopts a deviant role, what changes in group membership’s result, and what changes occur in the alleged deviant’s self-concept
Objectively given approach focuses primarily on the characteristics of the deviant or the conditions that give rise to deviant acts; the subjectively problematic approach focuses on the definitions and actions both of the deviants themselves and of the people who label them deviant, and on the social interaction between the two.
Deviants, from the interactions approach, are considered simply as people who are socially typed in a certain way
Typing usually involves an attempt to make sense of seemingly aberrant acts by employing stereotypical interpretations that define the actor as a particular kind of person that includes a judgment about the moral quality of the deviant’s motives and suggests how a person should act toward the deviant
The social definition of deviance consists of description, an evaluation, and a prescription
The definition of a person as a particular type of deviant organizes people’s responses to that person – the more people share the definition that a person is a particular type of deviant, the greater the consequences.
Once a person is typed as “deviant” a variety of social phenomena come into play, including who types whom, on what grounds, in what ways, before or after what acts, in front of what audience, and with what effects.
Conditions that seem to make typing more effective:
When type, the person typed as deviant, and other people share and understand the deviant definition in their social relationships. The person becomes the think he is described as being.
More accepted by other people if a high-ranking person does the typing
If there is a sense that the alleged deviant is violating important norms and that the violations are extreme
Negative social typing is more readily accepted than positive typing because people find comfort in the frailties of others and negative social typing is seen as a valuable safeguard if the type indicates an aberrant behaviour pattern that will continue with major consequences If the audience stands to gains from the labelling it may divert attention from one’s own deviance or may sustain a status difference between oneself and the deviant.
When social typing is effective, 3 kinds of consequences most often follow:
Self-fulfilling prophecy – typing is based on false beliefs about the alleged deviant, but the actions other people take on the basis of these false beliefs eventually make them a reality. Typecasting – the deviant stereotype is so widely accepted that confirmation of the typing proceeds rapidly, and typer, audience, and the person typed relate to each other in an automatic manner
Recasting – the deviant is expected to behave conventionally and is encourage disproving the deviant typing
The process of social typing occurs within a cultural context; because different groups and cultures have different ideas about deviance, typing often has an ethnocentric bias in which the outsider is typed as a deviant
Typing is easier when cultural guidelines exist
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