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College of the Social Sciences and Development Introduction to Sociology

Department of Sociology and Anthropology Deviance and Social Control

Deviance and Social Control


 An act that departs from the established norms.

 It is a behavior that a considerable number of people in society view as reprehensible and beyond the limits of tolerance.

 It does not exist independently of norms. Without norms and its application in human behavior, there is no deviance.

The Relativity of Deviance

 Acts defined as deviant vary greatly from time to time. The variations in that affect deviance are directly attributed to the dynamism of the

 The social audiences, through the application of norms decide what is deviant and what is not.

 Hence, in examining deviance in different societies, the definition of deviance is based on different cultural principles.

Tattoos: Deviant or not?

Body Modification: Deviant or not?

College of the Social Sciences and Development Introduction to Sociology
Department of Sociology and Anthropology Deviance and Social Control

 Example:

 The Etoro Tribe (Papua New Guinea)

 A tribe in Papua New Guinea where homosexual acts are

 Belief in hame, the “life force” that resides on man’s


 Heterosexual intercourse is viewed only for reproduction

and is limited only for 260 days a year.

 Male adults pass on the “life force” to young boys.

 When sociologists study behavior that they imply to as deviant, they are not implying that the behavior is immoral or wrong. Morality is a
philosophical, ethical, and religious issue, deviance however is a matter of whether shared norms are violated or there has been a social
reaction to some presumed violation.

 Acts committed by various social groups or individuals can be morally gauged, but both are considered deviant in their social contexts.

Theories of Deviance

 Anomie
o A social condition in which people find it difficult to guide their behavior by norms that they experience as weak, unclear, or

o “A rule that is lack of rule.”

 In Durkheim's view, traditional religions often provided the basis for the shared values which the anomic individual lacks.

 As the industrial society grows, the division of labor that has been prevalent in economic life led individuals to pursue egoistic ends,
rather that pursuing the goals for the larger community.
College of the Social Sciences and Development Introduction to Sociology
Department of Sociology and Anthropology Deviance and Social Control

 Structural Strain Theory (Robert K. Merton)

o Robert K. Merton saw that deviance occur when there are discrepancies between common social goals and the legitimate/
institutional means to attain that goal.

 Cultural Goal: Wealth

 Institutionalized Means: Good Education

 Conformity
o People accept the cultural goal and institutionalized goal.
 Innovation
o Individuals pursue common cultural goals, but due to lack of institutionalized means, they are forced to innovate.
 Ritualism
o People lose touch to cultural goals, but abides compulsively with institutionalized means.
 Retreatism
o Rejection of both cultural goal and institutionalized means, without substituting new forms.
 Rebellion
o Rejection of both cultural goal and institutionalized means and substitutes new norms for them.

 Cultural Transmission Theory

 All behaviors are learned, therefore social deviance is also learned.

 As new cultural groups enter a particular society, the society learns new cultural patterns.
 Deviant behavior is transmitted via interaction and socialization.

 Edwin Sutherland (Differential Association Theory)

 Key variables that are involved in learning:

1. Age of the "learner"

2. Intensity of contact with the deviant "teacher”
3. Ratio of "good" to "bad" social contacts in the "learner's" life
4. The theory predicts that the younger the "learner" is, in an intense relationship with the deviant "teacher", and the more contacts
with significant others who are "deviant", then the greater the likelihood the "learner" will also be deviant. The reverse is also

 Conflict Theory

 Critical question in explaining social deviance: “Which groups/ social classes will be able to translate its values into the rules of a society and
make these rules stick?”
College of the Social Sciences and Development Introduction to Sociology
Department of Sociology and Anthropology Deviance and Social Control

 Economic inequality pushes people who are economically challenged to pursue deviant actions in order to meet their needs and alleviate social

 The theory regards other deviant behaviors such as mental illness, immorality, family violence, and prostitution as product of moral
degeneration due to constant alienation.

 Richard Quinney (1984)

 Created a classic statement of conflict theory in explaining crime.

 “to understand crime, we have to understand the development of political economy of capitalist societies.” (1980)
 Crime is a class based political act embedded in capitalist social arrangements.
 Capitalism commits crimes of domination in order to maintain itself, such as price fixing by corporations, pollution to environment, etc.

 For Quinney, criminal behavior is a result of capitalist oppression into different realms in human life:

 Predatory crimes (such as robbery, burglary, and drug dealing) is pursued for the need to survive.
 Personal crimes (murder, assault, and rape) are caused by moral disintegration/ alienation.
 Crimes of resistance (uprisings, treason) are results of the clamor for social change.

 Labelling Theory

 Suggests that individuals who are looked upon as ‘deviants’, begin to think of themselves as deviants and enter deviant careers.

 The theory is concerned with how the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to
describe or classify them.
 Labeling theorists point out various points:

1. No act in itself is inherently deviant or not deviant. The act is judged based on the how people define and act towards it.
2. We all engage in deviant behavior by violating some norms. These are called primary deviance which are behaviors that violates
social norms but usually goes unnoticed by agents of social control.
3. Deviance depends on which rules society chooses to enforce, in which situations, and with respect to which people.
4. Labeling deviant people creates conditions that is conducive to deviance.
5. ‘Deviant’ individuals tend to get rejected, pushing them to incline towards deviant groups.

 Control Theory

 Control theorists views that conformity is a result of strong social bond. This bond has four parts:

o Attachment
 Process of being involved in social relationships. All social relationships entail some degree of control for all
o Involvement
 This means involvement in conventional activities. The main purpose is to provide alternative to deviant activities.
o Commitment
 Strength of investment people have made in social ties and relationships. People who have strong commitments are less
to deviate, for it may endanger their social benefits and privileges.
o Belief
 The less belief in conventional ideas and morality, the more likely it is that deviance will occur.

Deviance: Functions and Dysfunctions

 Deviant behavior is “an integral part of healthy societies.” - Emile Durkheim (1895, 1958)

 Functions of Deviance

 Maintains social order by reinforcing social values through rewarding people who follow norms and punishing those who deviate from
accepted norms (especially when people would rather break the norms). Makes conformity seem more desirable. (Durkheim)

 Helps to clarify social norms and indicates limits which society will tolerate.
College of the Social Sciences and Development Introduction to Sociology
Department of Sociology and Anthropology Deviance and Social Control

 Creates solidarity among the "conformers" when they see "non-conformers" punished; reaction against deviance reaffirms existing

 Points to "pressure spots" and problems in the society which call for attention. Often is the source of social change.

 Provides a "safety valve" to deflect pressure points which reduces the push to change. (e.g. avoiding confrontations to maintain group

 Dysfunctions of Deviance

 Disrupts the social order, causes tensions and conflicts which make life difficult.

 Diverts resources (e.g. crime control) which could be used more productively.

 Undermines trust. Social relationships are based on assumptions that people will follow through on agreements.

 If ignored or unpunished, undermines other people's will to conform.

Social Control and Crime

 Social Control

 Social control refers to the various means used by a society to bring its members back into line with cultural norms.

 It also refers to societal and political mechanisms or processes that regulate individual and group behavior, leading to conformity and
compliance to the rules of a given society, state, or social group.

 Types of Social Control

 Internal Control

o Control is instilled by internalization of norms and values through the process of socialization.

 External Control

o External sanctions, which can be either positive (rewards) or negative (punishment).These sanctions come from either formal or
informal control.

 Formal Social Control

o Refers to components of society that are designed for the resocialization of individuals who break formal rule.

o E.g. Mental Health Institutions, Rehabilitation Centers, Prison system

 Informal Social Control

o Refers to elements of society that are designed to reinforce informal cultural norms.

o E.g. Bullying, Labelling, Stereotyping


 Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority (via mechanisms such as legal systems) can ultimately prescribe a

 Types of Crime
College of the Social Sciences and Development Introduction to Sociology
Department of Sociology and Anthropology Deviance and Social Control

 Drug crimes

o The drug-crime category encompasses a range of offenses connected with the use, transportation, purchase, and sale of illegal
College of the Social Sciences and Development Introduction to Sociology
Department of Sociology and Anthropology Deviance and Social Control

 Street crime
o The most common forms of predatory crime rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft occur most frequently on
urban streets. Racial minority citizens account for a disproportionately high number of the arrests for street crimes.
 Political crime
o The political-crime category contains both crimes by the government and crimes against the government. Political goals motivate
political criminals.

 Organized crime
o The term organized crime refers to the unlawful activities of members of criminal organizations that supply illegal goods and

 Victimless crime
o Consensual acts (in which people are willing participants) and violations in which only the perpetrator is hurt, such as the
personal use of illegal drugs, are called victimless crimes.

 White collar and Corporate crime

o Crimes commonly committed by affluent persons, often in the course of business activities. This includes fraud, corruption,
bribery, tax evasion, etc.