Your SlideShare is downloading. ×
Lecture notes – week 1
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5

Thanks for flagging this SlideShare!

Oops! An error has occurred.


Saving this for later?

Get the SlideShare app to save on your phone or tablet. Read anywhere, anytime - even offline.

Text the download link to your phone

Standard text messaging rates apply

Lecture notes – week 1


Published on

Another resource from uneOpen – the first open online site to offer credit towards a university degree. Enrol now at

Another resource from uneOpen – the first open online site to offer credit towards a university degree. Enrol now at

Published in: Education

  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total Views
On Slideshare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

Report content
Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

No notes for slide


  • 1. Lecture notes – Week 1:The nature and meaning of deviance
  • 2. WHAT IS DEVIANCE?Deviant behaviour is of enormous public interest.Large sections of the news in the mass media is given over to thediscussion of deviance which is presented asshocking, disgusting, scandalous or horrible.The term is problematic. There is a lack of clear key terms andconcepts characterises the study of deviance.Within social theory there is little consensus about the causes ofdeviance or on the social processes involved in categorising certainactivities as deviant.
  • 3. Can refer toknavery, skulduggery, cheating, unfairness, crime, sneakiness, malingering, cuttingcorners, immorality, dishonesty, theft, betrayal, graft, corruption, wickedness and sin ...
  • 4. and encompasses a wide variety of behaviour including drugaddiction, property theft, witchcraft, corruption, taxfraud, prostitution, abortion, drug trafficking, rape, shoptheft, rudeness, lateness, illness, drunkenness, being too fat orthin, gender deviation ...
  • 5. But for sociologists ‘deviance’ frequently equated with crime, drugaddiction, juvenile delinquency, prostitution, homosexuality and sexualmisconduct, mental disorder.For the most part the study of deviance has been concentrated on the“nuts, sluts and perverts.”
  • 6. Deviance is socially constituted. That is, the meaning of deviance is continually shifting according tohistorical and contemporary perspective and contemporary fashion.One current fashion is to claim that there is no such phenomenon as deviance. The position takenin this course is that there is deviance. Though it precise substantive meaning is subject tocontinual redefinition. For some people, ‘absolutists’, the meaning of deviance is self-evident andnon-negotiable, for others, ‘relativists’, the definition of deviance is equivocal.A single definition of deviance that is acceptable to everyone is difficult to construct. This ispartially due to the fact that over time norms and values change. Some acts remain consistentlydeviant, but only within certain contexts. For example in the context of war killing another humanbeing may be necessary or even commendable. But despite the inevitable subjectivity in judgingdeviance, some acts are regarded as almost universally aberrant and objectionable.Deviance is a pervasive aspect of social life. there is no person who has not been engaged in deviantactivity and has not been identified as such. The sociology of deviance as such, is not the study of‘them’ and their strange practices - it is the investigation of all social life and its members.
  • 7. Conceptions of deviance change over time and across different cultures.Erickson states:“Every human community has its own special set of boundaries, its ownunique identity, and so we may presume that every community also has itsown set of characteristic styles about deviant behaviour.”Behaviour defined and sanctioned as deviant in one society may be normalin anotherFor example, cross cultural norms about food consumption or sex.Deviance and illegality are not synonymous and not all criminal activities arecriminally deviant. Even though an act may be deviant some groups mayconsider it deviant and tolerable such as abortion. And some groups maydefine criminal activities as appropriate and normal.
  • 8. Therefore it is not the act but the ‘definition’ others place on it, or the‘norms’ they apply, that makes an action deviant. As Clinard and Meier state“deviancy is in the eye of the beholder, not in any particular action on thepart of the person who may be labelled as deviant” (2008, 5)Definitions of deviance ebb and flow and some segments of society havemore power to influence, alter, maintain or apply specific conceptions ofdeviance. For instance, movements to decriminalise drugs, prostitution,homosexuality.Conceptions of deviance are not an objective entity independent of societybut are linked to social organisation, leaving open questions of who isdeviant and who is normal.
  • 9. WHO IS DEVIANT AND WHO ISNORMAL?normality1. To belong to the dominant groups of people who are male, Australianborn, Anglo-Celtic, middle class, about 25-55 years of age, Protestant,heterosexual2. Live in a nuclear family household in your own house3. Be in paid work and believe in the work ethic for all.Roughly accounts for about 10% of the population. These are men whoseindulgence in power perversion and the obsessive pursuit of wealth are aproblem to the majority. Many of the problems in society flow from thedramatic types of normality which this group displays in so far as Australia isa patriarchal capitalist society.
  • 10. The effect on a normal of defining and excluding others is to reinforcethe perception of self as normal.Normals are unified and made into a cohesive group by excludingdeviants.
  • 11. KINDS OF NORMSThe best way of defining deviance is in relation to norms:Deviance can be defined as norm breaking behaviour.Sociologists generally take the view that there is much behaviour that is orderly but doesnot conform with dominant norms in a particular system. This behaviour is calleddeviance.Social norms are shared expectations of how people ought to behave in certaincircumstances.They are guides to action that produce behavioural regularity on the part of individuals andparallel lines of conduct on the part of collective persons.There is some consensus in society regarding what norms are and the value ofconformity, but not all the norms are the outcome of agreement: they may reflect andreinforce the interest of specific segments of society.For example, those with power and authority who can impose their conceptions ofdeviance and normality on others.
  • 12. Social norms include:• rules and regulations and etiquette, and generally prescribe what is normaland expected behaviour.• What is viewed as normal behaviour can vary between gender, ethnic andclass groupings or cultures.• Different kinds of norms or different conceptions of social morality areapplied in different social contexts and to different categories of people.• Norms, as such, are socially constructed rules for behaviour.• They do not indicate right or wrong but are used by dominant groups tolegitimise their social control, of subordinate groups.• Norms are set to the interests of people who have the power to definetruth, custom, mores and law.
  • 13. 1. CUSTOM = behaving as expected.For example, speaking English, wearing skirts and trousers. If broken possibility of severe informal sanctions such as dismissal from work, discriminationbeing labelled mentally ill or alcoholic.Varies between different status groups and provides convenient grounds for imposition of minute ramifications and hence social control.2. MORES = moral prescriptions such as the work ethic and others which form part of the myths of the dominant ideology of our society.Some religions for instance are regarded in our society as stabilising and desirable while others are regarded with suspicion and seen to be disruptive.3. LAWS = Some customs and mores are made into laws which are recorded and approved by parliament and are backed by formal legal sanction which insome cases can be more severe than the informal sanctions imposed on breaking previous mores or customs.Deviance is thus behaviour which violates the norms which apply in any given social situation and which is specifically proscribed there.Just because a person may recognise a norm though does not mean they are likely to follow it:For example, a norm may be “though shall not admit adultery, and person may state that they agree with it but this does not mean that they have notbroken such a norm or are unlikely in certain circumstances not to do so.So a norm may often be a verbalised standard that is accompanied by congruent behaviour.There are a wide variety of norms in society so still some forms of deviation are going to be trivial such as long hair in certain contexts.
  • 14. Sociologists, as such, are interested in contexts which invoke high levels of opposition or disapproval. This is more likely under conditions in which thenorms are formalised as laws, charters, rule books and lists of sins.Rules about conformity and what constitutes deviance constantly change.Arriving late, talking during a lecture, lying, cheating, tax fraud, smoking pot are all examples of deviance. But they might also be examples of conformitydepending on the circumstances, the norms being applied, others expectations, and the credibility of excuses or accounts given of the behaviour.Norms may be internalised or codified.Some kinds of deviance are regulated by criminal law, other by morality, the expectations of specific groups or social settings, the welfare system or themedical profession.When looking at norms must ask:Who creates the norms?How do they become official or legal?Why are some norms more important than other?Does visibility make a difference? ie everyone breaks norms but why are some caught and others not.Deviance without breaking norms? A norm may not necessarily be broken with the intent of the actor. And some may be deemed deviant without havingany choice in it by virtue of ethnic group.For example, the mass media contribute to the process of deviant amplification, escalation or dramatisation. News reports present stereotyped images ofactivities and individuals that the public perceives as threatening deep-seated societal values and interests, which may lead to moral panics or theestablishment of folk devils. This process may stimulate the development of full blown social problems.A good indicator of the existence of deviant behaviour is negative ‘sanctions’.
  • 15. SANCTIONSSANCTIONS = mechanisms aimed at social control and conformity, which can be rewards forconformity to social expectations or punishments.Organised sanctions are a formerly specified response to deviant behaviour. Diffuse sanctions areinformal and spontaneous and are the frequent aspects of everyday interaction.Generally sociologists are interested in behaviours which invoke negative sanctions that areorganised.As such, there are two types of sanctions:INFORMAL - interpersonal influences or evaluation of conduct related to groupsmembership, embedded in everyday social interaction and involves sanction that includeridicule, gossip, smiles, a glance and ostracism;FORMAL - broad structural influences or expressions of official groups sentiment agencies of whichare legal system, police, courts etc. also meted out by non-specialised systems such as medicine.Sanctions are applied by members of a group who feel offended by deviance.Sanctions lead to the practice of social control. The sociological study of deviance necessarilyinvolves the study of social control.
  • 16. Social ControlSOCIAL CONTROL = all actions, responses or reactions orientated to theeradication or the containment of deviant behaviour. If deviance disturbs thesocial equilibrium then a social control groups set out to restore order.A system where by an organised attempt is made to make deviants conformis called a ‘social control system’ .The main elements of which are:organised crime = the police, courts of criminal law, and criminal legalpracticessin = preaching and confessionalmental illness = medicine therapy and psychiatry
  • 17. A system of social control defines which acts are non-conformist and which are to be publiclydefined and vilified as deviance.What is to be defined and managed is dependent on:1. the visibility of the act2. the power of those who define it as deviant’ and all the subsequent social processes by which thedeviant acts are managed.Management may include the legal sanctioning and processing of acts and actors and thegeneration of official statistics.Though, with social control rule enforcers can actually contribute to deviance and encourage rulebreaking so as to elicit enforcement and covert facilitation.Also the condition of people once they are labelled deviant may encourage more rule breaking andthus lead to an extension of rule breaking.For instance, once labelled they cannot find work once there position within the social structure haschanged. Police inattention can also lead to an escalation in deviant activity and may incite it.
  • 18. THE STUDY OF DEVIANCETwo schools in relation proper object of study:1. focus on the deviant actor and the norm that they violate.2. Social audience who observe and object to instances of rule-violation.Two directions:1. Transgressions against societal norms - refers to violation of culturallywidespread conduct and standards. More of a focus on the main categorieslisted previously.For example, categories of deviation that are listed in some form or officialmanner by criminal law and that are regulated by institutions such as thepolice and formal organisations.
  • 19. People who are caught up in such practices are often labelled in such a way that they come to restructure theirother social roles around a deviant role.* violates culturally widespread conduct rules* arouses string societal reactions* results in formal Soc control activities directed at it by social control organisations* often leads to secondary deviation. - adoption of a deviant career.2. OMNIBUS DEFINITION - deviation consists of violations of major and minor rules alike and occurs in socialsystems of all sizes, from small and collectives.More likely to be uncodified.Usually things like bad manners.Social control measures to deal with these instances of rule breaking usually informal ones, and the controlsare not carried out in the name of society.Could examine such things as rules of relationships and their effects, such as, feelings of embarrassment,irritation.Look at small groups or collectives and the norms that are violated in them such as occupational groups.
  • 20. CONCLUSIONThe problem of deviance in sociology is the examination of the social behaviour that key institutions, such as the law and religion,perceive as negative. It is when certain types of conduct are classified and defined as undesirable, and when this perception ispublicly shared.The term deviance thus refers to acts which are publicly identified; labelled as unacceptable; and sanctioned. In some instances thiswill be achieved by such formal means as rule and laws.1. Deviance is generally a negative social category, which like normal behaviour, is determined by historical and social circumstanceie. what is defined as deviant today may not be so in ten years time and what is regarded as deviant in one situation may not be inanother.2. There is an assumption that discussions of deviance focus primarily on ‘deviants’.However, the process by which an individual or a group becomes identified as deviant, or not, is problematic for the sociologist.Useful focus is deviant behaviour and activity - not deviant persons.3. Deviance is generally a public rather then a personal or private explanation.The technical definition often does not count ie. jay walking may not make you a deviant in the public eye.Most deviance is determined by historical and social circumstances, plus the prevailing public view. In sociological terms it is not howunusual or strange the act is but rather its context and the public perception of it.