Introduction to the
Sociology of Deviance
WHAT IS DEVIANCE?
WHO IS DEVIANT?
THE PROBLEM: SOCIAL
and Social Control:
(The following section
is based on my reading and paraphrasing of the work of Stephen Phofl: Images
of Deviance and Social Control: A Sociological History, McGraw-Hill, 1994.)
perceive and understand the physical and social world based on a shared sense
of order (predictability): the meanings we attach to people, things, and actions.
"Otherness" (differentness) challenges our assumptions, our taken-for-granted
sense of normalcy and naturalness
- At a basic "gut" level
it calls into question our basic beliefs and ideas: It threatens us.
- At a social level it challenges
the social order: the existing web of relationships, values, reality and meaning
Some form of Control is necessary
to help maintain Order:
- External: a system of norms, sanctions
Deviance is problematic, yet essential
and intrinsic to any conception of Social Order. It is problematic because it
disrupts; it is essential because it defines the confines of our shared reality;
and it is intrinsic to a conception of order in that defining what is real and
expected, defining what is acceptable, and defining who we are- always is done
in opposition to what is unreal, unexpected, unacceptable, and who we are not
("We defines They"). If we can accept the reality of change, then
designations of deviance are crucial in locating the shifting boundaries of
our socially structured reality.
And, when we define someone or some
group as deviant- we strengthen our own position and simplify our response to
the "other": ignore, expunge, destroy, or rehabilitate them. We convince
ourselves of our own normalcy by condemning and controlling those who disagree.
Deviance is a phenomenon situated in power: Winners are the good and the normal;
Losers are the sick, the crazy, the evil (and they often accept the "label").
Deviance, therefore, exists in opposition
to those who attempt to control it-- to those who have:
Winners: Organize social life
Losers: Are controlled (executed,
shamed, jailed, hospitalized, cared for). They are just not treated as NORMAL.
They are STIGMATIZED.
Deviance is not a matter of the cost
or consequences of a particular behavior, or the behavior itself. Deviance is
a label (PROCESS) used to maintain the power, control, and position of a dominant
Deviance is a negotiated order.
Deviance violates some groups assumptions about reality (social order). It violates
expectations. The definition of deviance defines the threat and allows for containment
and control of the threat. The definition of deviance preserves, protects, and
defines group interests and in doing so maintains a sense of normalcy. Deviance
is a product of Social Interaction.
itself, Actors, Observers, Rules and Rule Enforcers
- What are the rules (norms)?: Situational
- Who makes the rules?: Power
- Who enforces the rules?: Organizational
and individual interests
- Who breaks the rules?
"Moral Entrepreneurs: The Creation and Enforcement of Deviant Categories"
(in Pontell, 2005)
Who makes the rules? Moral entrepreneurs:
- A mission: personal or social.
- New rules-- New deviance.
- Paternalism ("help the less
fortunate," add to their own power).
- Concern with the rule itself-
Ends vs. Means: Reliance upon "experts" (lawyers, doctors, etc.).
- Experts bring own interests into
play: modifies the original intent of the crusader.
- Once a new rule (law): Then institutionalization-
an Agency (police, FBN, etc)
- Agency's interest and motives?
Detachment- not concerned with the content of the rule, but with enforcement:
The rule is a JOB.
- Need to continue to maintain justification
for the existence of the JOB: Crime is increasing at a decreasing rate.
- Day to day reality: Need for maintenance
of position on the street. Respect.
- Official deviance often becomes,
not rule breaking, but lack of respect for rule enforcer.
- The "Fix": 'Amateurs
- Enforcers have little stake
in the content of the rule, they often develop their own evaluation of
the importance of the rule in light of the contingencies of their daily
Enforcers and Creators: Often at
odds==> Leads to a new crusade. Deviance "re-loaded."
- Deviance and social interaction:
Reactions to deviance change the shape of deviance.
- Not just "secondary deviance,"
but in the course of attempts to control rule enforcers give new meaning to
the reality of deviance- foster "Primary Deviance."
- Increase frequency,
seriousness (high speed chase, runaway->probation->new violation->delinquent)
- new categories(carjacking)
- increases skill level
- violations linked
to enforcement ("buy money," 'scared straight,' "the usual
- Covert Facilitation
Robert Scott: "The Making of
(in Pontell, 1993)
- The problem of blindness does
not stem from preconceptions about blindness, it is an effect of introducing
the factor of blindness into interaction: Strained Interaction
- The Socialization of the Blind
- Stereotypes the sighted have:
Blindness as "Master Status"
- Ambiguity and communication
- Disrupted interaction"Confirms"
status and stigma:"Looking-Glass-Self"
- Further problem: Social Dependency-
Power and Social Exchange
- 1 and 2: force the blind to recognize
their 'differentness' and creates a social identity that is either accepted
or rejected by the blind (in either case they are forced into responding to
the stigma, and "becoming" a "Self" based on
their response. This imposes uniform behavioral patterns on the blind, which
in turn feed the stereotypes........
- 3, 4, and 5: Provide further evidence
of 'differentness,' deny feedback, and relegates the blind to a subordinate
Net result: Heterogeneous population
"The 'Discovery' of Child Abuse"
(in Pontell, 2005)
Societal reaction to (and therefore
individual reaction o) deviance is a complex social-cultural-historical process
based on shifting definitions, organizational interests and professional expertise.
The "reaction" and the "deviance" are mutually interrelated
phenomenon. In the discovery of child abuse we see the culmination of these
processes in the production of a new medical syndrome in 1962: Battered Child
Syndrome. Significant elements which led up to this discovery include:
- Changes in:
- The social image of children.
- Assumptions that formed the
basis of our understanding of the "causes" of deviance.
- The organization of Social
- The social organization of the
- ER doctors were unaware, unwilling
(perhaps) and restrained by confidentiality and fear of loss of control.
- Pediatric Radiology and Psychodynamic
Psychiatry were removed from the immediacy of the situation and stood
to gain in professional status: The most idealized mission of the profession:
"To label as illness what was not previously labeled at all, or labeled
in some other fashion."
- Once "medicalized" the
idea spreads: Interests of social workers, lobbying efforts of the medical
profession, and the role of the media.
- Resistance was weak: Labelers==>
Middle class, 'removed' from abusers. Abusers==> Lower class; no power.
- With continued acceptance==>
further spread and continued medicalization. Definition of abuse has broadened,
and need for treatment has become a preventive reality.
- 1993: 50,000 calls in the State
- 2003: 108,685
Societal reaction==> Norms==>
Deviance==> Societal reaction==> Revised norms==> More deviance.............
Owner: Robert O. Keel firstname.lastname@example.org
Credits for this Page of Notes
Monday, January 29, 2007 1:22 PM