Module 5 Deviance and Social Control

DOWNLOAD>> Overview of Deviance and Social Control

In a very general sense, deviance (referring to actions or attributes) and/or deviants (referring to people) are products of normative expectations (informal rules) embedded in culture (or way of life). Deviance and/or deviants depend on societal reactions to what is being observed. The social psychological processes operating in the minds of individuals shape their reality, and perceptions of what is considered deviance and who can be classified as deviant. In ways that are imagined or real, deviance evokes a range of emotions that seem indicative of social disapproval.

It may seem immediately logical to conclude that deviance rests on a continuum of negativity. However, such a conclusion would be grossly premature, because deviance could represent positive actions, attributes or people, but still fall into a deviant classification because it runs counter to cultural standards. If we assume that deviance reflects cultural norms and social psychological processes and given culture as well as peoples’ perceptions are ever changing then it is logical to suggest that deviance is relative. Essentially, deviance reflects social constructions; therefore, examining deviance becomes a sociological endeavor when the focus is not limited to actions, attributes or people but is broadened to include the contextual (that is, economic, social, cultural, educational, and spiritual) socialization of the social audience. Consider the following story of an imagined encounter.

There she stood, obviously woman and feminine in every way. She was amazingly beautiful, hair flowing like the finest of sugar brown silk, eyes a deep brown, with lips that curved so alluringly. Her body was that of a finely tuned instrument and she strolled with such style that is befitting of a graceful panther. I wondered what it would be like to say hello and steal a kiss. I closed my eyes and “damn” — I just kissed a girl!

If I am a high school male and the girl is a classmate is there anything wrong (or deviant) about what I am thinking? If I am a high school female and the girl is a classmate is there anything wrong (or deviant) about what I am thinking? What do you think influenced your decision to label the above normal or deviant? When attempting to label actions or actors as either homicides/murderers, rape/rapists, binge drinking/alcoholics, infidelity/adulterers etc. , students should be aware that cultural standards play a significant role.

Deviance/deviants can also reach a criminal level (that is a person’s action(s) become a legal code violation or violate the law). When attempting to explain crime scientifically, Sociologists who specialize in criminology use the following kinds of theories: one developmental (pre-dispositional, social learning, social control), two structural (environmental and institutional), three formal social regulation and control (functionalism, consensus, conflict, and power control), and four life course phenomenology (experiences related to race or ethnicity, gender, age, urbanity, and socioeconomic status). Most theories concerning inherently speak to the influence of human nature.

Sociologists who specialize in criminology are also interested in (1) the experiences of victims (victimology); (2) legal code construction and application (sociology of law); (3) the criminal justice machine; (4) penology (operating procedures of the criminal justice system from initial contact with the police, adjudication, sentencing, to incapacitation and incarceration); and (5) institutional aftercare of offenders and convicts. Essentially, sociologists who specialize in criminology and deviance are social research scientists who examine social facts and statistics to test, construct, and even reformulate theories so that people are better informed about the nature and extent of deviance, violence, and crime.

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