Deviance as Subjectively Problematic

Focus on the social differentiation of deviants


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

Person typed as deviant acquires a special status that carries a set of new rights and duties or changes in old ones

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By Hassham

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