Chapter 8 (Sociology).docx - u25cf A Defining Deviance...

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A. Defining Deviance Deviance is behavior that does not conform to basic cultural norms and expectations. 1. Deviance and Social Context Emile Durkheim argued that crime (and deviant behavior) could be defined only in relation to the social norms a criminal act violates. We are not offended by action because it is a crime; rather, we define an act as criminal because it offends basic social norms. These basic norms contribute to what Durkheim called the collective conscience, the shared norms, beliefs, and values in a community. What is considered normal or deviant varies over time and across cultures, and definitions of normal often shift in response to social change. 2. Labeling Theory: Defining Deviant Behavior A behavior is defined as deviant when it is marked publicly as deviant by those with enough power to enforce that designation. Labeling theory argues that deviance is the result of how others interpret a behavior and those individuals who are labeled deviant often internalize this judgment as part of their self-identity. 3. The Effects of Deviant Labels People who are labeled deviant are likely to face negative consequences and limited options in life. Those who are labeled deviant must deal with the stigma or shame associated with their deviant label. Stigma refers to the shame attached to a behavior or status that is considered socially unacceptable or discrediting. Labeling people as deviant may lead them into secondary deviance, deviant behavior that is a response to the negative consequences of labeling. Labeling creates a self-fulfilling prophecy and marks social boundaries between the normal and deviant.
B. The Role of Deviance within Social Structures Emile Durkheim pointed out that deviant behavior is a feature of all human societies. He argued that deviance can be functional, playing a positive social role, and reinforcing social structures. 1. Defining Group Boundaries In much of social life, rules are implicit rather than explicit. Deviance helps clarify the boundaries of acceptable behavior. 2. Creating Social Solidarity Deviant behavior reinforces conformity within a social structure. Example: Erickson’s study of the hysteria about witchcraft in seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts. The way people respond to deviance can produce group solidarity. 3. Providing a Source of Innovation Deviant people push boundaries and can facilitate change. Example: advocates of democracy considered radicals C. Explaining Deviance Sociological explanations emphasize the social dynamics surrounding deviance, explaining it as a rational choice, the result of inadequate or improper socialization, or the product of mismatch between social norms and economic opportunities.

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