school, books, experiences: in my own words (more or less).

Location: Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Sociology 101 - Deviance & Control - Part I

Deviance can loosely be defined as "rare behaviour" since it flies in the face of conventional norms. As such, one could consider Mother Teresa as a devianct, although we (society) tends to focus on the negative aspects of deviance. Deviance elicits moral condemnation and is therefore subject to social control.

Deviance is not a static thing; rather it varies in time and place. It is a product of culture. Consider, for example, attitudes towards gays and lesbians, tattoes, and sex. Why do we make rules? Why do we obey them? Durkheim questioned the purpose of both rules and rule-breakers in society. Are both necessary? Do they serve a purpose? If not, why do they persist?

Deviance may be both objective and subjective. Objective deviance refers to the characteristics that define deviance. In other words, objective deviance is our perception of what deviance is. On the other hand, subjective deviance refers to the moral status associated with such behaviour, created by "powerful others". Crime rates reflect both types; someone makes law, another breaks it.

Deviance is a complex subject. There are many definitions, competing theories and sources of error in (collecting) data. As such, sociology may be considered as "harder" than criminology, which one might argue is "cut-and-dry". I'm inclined to disagree considering the many loopholes in law and how differently it may be interpreted.

Deviance is also complicated due to research difficulties: maintaining secrecy, ethical dilemnas and safety risk. In researching deviance, researchers need to gain the trust, otherwise it is hard to gain information. People are not usually willing to talk about their personal deviant experiences. Additionally, if a research uncovers a crime he/she faces an ethical dilemna. Should the crime be reported? Should evidence be revealed to a court? It is interesting to consider that the same protection that applies to doctors and priests do not extend to scoiologists. Finally, a research may be placed in a dangerous or threatening situation, such as conducting a study of the Hell's Angels biker gang. On the other hand, research participants are vulnerable since findings may be used against them.

There are 4 paradigms of the causes of deviance: poor socialization, limited opportunity, faulty attachment and insufficient rewards. These four a primarily functionalist perspectives and focus on order, consensus, and public benefits.

Durkheim examines deviance from a different angle, claiming it is positive and actually serves to enhance and re-affirm community, social cohesion and moral codes. People tend to commit crimes, he says, when they are detached from people and rules.

to be continued...


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