Approaches to Deviance
(from Goode, 6th, 2001,
and 7th, 2005 chapters 2 and 3)
Constructionists don't understand
the world to be divided up into categories of right and wrong, deviant and non-deviant.
The basic issue surrounding designations of deviance is not why
certain people violate a particular norm, but how
are norms constructed (including what factors are taken into consideration in
defining certain acts/people as deviant) and how are
sanctions applied--why are some people engaged in certain behaviors (or who
possess particular characteristics) condemned and labeled, "deviant."
It is the "social construction of deviance" that needs to be explained,
not the ("wrong") choices of individuals.
of Deviant Categories
- How is human behavior assembled
into identifiable categories
- Why are certain categories selected
as important and significant?
- Categories do not exist in nature,
they are the products of human cognition and become embedded in the cultural
tradition of particular groups and societies..
2. Investigation of condemnation
- Why do certain rules exist?
- How does a general category become
defined as wrong, a norm-violation?
- The focus is on the process of
condemnation, not on the behavior being condemned.
3. Consequences of Rules
- How do specific, contextualized
behaviors and identities emerge as elements of general categories?
- Pfohl's- "Discovery
of child abuse"
- Homosexuality in Prison
- Constructionists see the transition
"from deviance to deviant" not as automatic, but in need of explanation.
- How does the actor, the believer,
or the possessor become defined as a deviant?
- "Why is a particular person
who enacts a certain type of behavior, holds certain beliefs, and possesses
a certain condition condemned, socially isolated, stigmatized, and punished,
while another who engages in the same behavior holds the same belief, or possesses
the same condition is tolerated accepted and indulged in his or her difference
from the mainstream?" (Goode, 2005, page 40)
can ask about:
1. False Accusations
- If the central question is not
"Why do they do it?" but "Why are there rules, why are they enforced and who
is accused of wrongdoing?", then it becomes secondary that the accused person
didn't "do it" i.e. Renaissance Europe's "Witch
- For the Constructionist, the response
to an instance of perceived deviance is a seperate issue to analyze independently
from the reasons that may lie behind an individual's actual behavior.
2. Physical Conditions as Deviant
- Are, and to what extent, certain
physical conditions regarded as deviant? i.e. Blindness.
There are reasons why some people violate society's rules and why some societies
experience more deviance than others and these reasons can be discovered and
explained. The violation of a society's norms is not randomly distributed from
person to person or society to society.
Norms do not fall from the skies; they are created and enforced as a result
of systematic, identifiable sociological processes. While the sociological positivist
takes the norms and their enforcement as if they were a given, the fact
is they are not, they are every bit a social product, and every bit in need
of an explanation, as deviant behavior.
1. Social Construction of Moral
Meaning and Definitions
3. Social Control
4. The Political Equation - The Processes of Criminalization
The Social Construction
of Moral Meanings and Definitions
- Acts or traits are not intrinsically
- Moral meanings are constructed
- Notions of wrong and right come
to be defined overtime within specific social and cultural context. They arise
out of specific processes and structures.
in the Construction of Moral Meanings
1. Moral Entrepreneurs
- If persuasive, legitimate, active,
credible figures launch a campaign to discredit an activity, it stands a
high chance of being widely regarded as wrong, or immoral. Thus Deviant!
i.e. Nancy Reagan's Just say No!
2. Social Status
- Relatively low status, relatively
powerless individuals are more likely to find their activities or traits
defined as morally unacceptable, Deviant!, than those who hold a higher
status and have more power.
- 1930's scapegoat for the War
on Drugs were the young and jazz musicians.
- Behavior is not deviant in itself.
- Behavior becomes deviant when
it is seen and reacted to in a society or in a particular social context.
- Not all definitions of right
and wrong vary from one society to another. Functionalism
-some actions are more likely to be punished because they are dysfunctional,
that is tolerating them would lead to their widespread enactment and a
less cohesive society. i.e. Murder
- There is a great deal of variation
in which specific acts fall into a deviant category, and hence,
qualify as worthy of condemnation.
- Most perspectives are moderately
relativistic, that is they are more likely to stress the universals
in deviance and crime. The similarities from one moral code to another.
- The Constructionist approach
may be referred to as much more radically relativistic, that is they
are more likely to emphasize difference, the variation or relativity in
moral and legal codes from one society to another, as well as, from one
group, subculture or individual to another within the same society.
- Plummer's societal and
situational deviance -an act or type of act may be widely condemned
in a given society according to that society's "abstract meaning systems",
although in a specific situation, that condemnation may not have in fact
- Although some variation does
exist, the agreement in the same society about what should be condemned
is quite high.
to Defining Deviance
Owner: Robert O. Keel email@example.com
Credits for this Page of Notes
Monday, January 29, 2007 1:33 PM