Discusses Deviance

Chapter six begins with a discuss on the relativity of deviance, with an anthropologist describing his encounter with a Brazilian tribe that was engaging in behavior that was completely normal by their standards, but completely unusual from the perspective of Westerners. Likewise, the tribe found his behavior to be strange according to their accepted norms. The book then provides a definition of deviance - behavior that is considered inappropriate and violates cultural norms - and discusses how something that that is perfectly legal in one country might be punishable by death in another. Next, there is a paragraph about how norms are essential for a functioning society. In essence, if there is no social order, there is only chaos. An information box discusses how sexual norms can vary from culture to culture. The chapter goes into detail about negative sanctions, a response of disapproval that results from an inappropriate act; and positive sanctions, in which a person is rewarded for certain actions. The book notes that there is disagreement over what accounts for deviance. The three main sciences that offer explanations are sociobiology, psychology, and sociology. Sociobiology presupposes that acts of deviance are grounded in genetics. By contrast, psychologists believe the root causes are based on personality disorders. Meanwhile, sociologists consider external factors such as interactions with groups as the reason behind deviance.


Section two of the chapter begins by discussing the symbolic interactionist perspective. It involves three competing theories: differential association theory, control and labeling. Differential association is when a person chooses to conform or deviate based on their surroundings. Thus, a person who lives in a safe, affluent neighborhood full of responsible people might be an upright citizen while another individual who lives in a dangerous, crime-ridden community might also turn to a life of crime. The control theory involves the individuals competing internal and external motivations that would determine whether a person acts on deviant behavior. For example, somebodys friend might ask for assistance in stealing a car radio. The individual might be influenced by the friend as well as by personal feelings of the thrill. On the other hand, the person might feel conflicted because he/she knows that other important people in his/her life would be disappointed by his/her actions. Finally, labeling theory suggests that how a person is labeled (whether in a positive or negative way) both affects the way the person views him/herself and the way in which he/she believes they are being perceived. The person may choose to reject the label through various means of rationale or they might embrace it. Between these explanations, there is a page-sized window article about using methods of public shaming in order to change deviant behaviors. Section two ends with a discussion on how even when two groups commit the same behaviors the positive and negative stereotypes associated with the groups social status could determine whether or not they face consequences for their actions. Section three discusses deviance from the fundamentalist perspective. One idea is that deviance can be useful for three reasons: First, it establishes the line between what is considered acceptable and unacceptable; secondly, it develops a sense of community and righteousness amongst those who object to deviance; and third, an act of deviance might actually result in positive social change. One example of this could be when Martin Luther King Jr., called for acts of disobedience in order to protest against segregationist policies. Next, the section discusses the strain theory, which argues that people who want to reach a desired societal goal but face certain barriers for achieving them will act deviant. This is broken into four modes: innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion. Innovation involves breaking the law to achieve the goal. Ritualism is about being convinced that the goal is no longer achievable, so the person does the bare minimum that neither gets them ahead nor causes them to fall behind. Retreatism entails giving up on achieving a goal, but also engaging in illegal acts. Rebellion is when the individual accepts that the goals cannot be achieved under the current rules of society, so this person tries to change the rules themselves in order to make the goal achievable. An example could be overthrowing a corrupt government. The topic then turns to different types of crimes that are influenced by social class. For example, those who are poor will engage in street-related crimes in order to get ahead. Meanwhile, the affluent might commit a white collar crime such as insider trading. The book notes that even if the perpetrators of each crime hypothetically stole the same amount, the one who engaged in the street-related crime would be more likely to receive a stricter jail sentence. This section ends with discussing crimes related to gender class, noting that as opportunities for women have been on the rise, so have crime rates among this gender.

Section four discusses the conflict perspective by going into more detail about the role social class plays in the justice system. The argument of some theorists is that the criminal justice system acts as a tool for oppressing the lowest social classes. They base their belief on the idea that the wealthy recognize that the poor have the potential to weld power, so in order to prevent changes to the status quo in which the elite rule, those who live in poverty are punished at levels that are disproportionate to the crimes they are committing. The information window on the next page discusses dogging, in which people have sex in public so that others can watch. It has become very popular in England and has generated great controversy. Back to the discussion of the justice system, the chapter offers charts and a discussion on the rapid rise in incarceration in America over the course of the past 4 decades, rising from 196,000 in 1970 to a peak of 1,615,000 by 2009. The author of the textbook suggests that with the public demanding low taxes, the prison business has acted as a way to make up the lost revenues at the state and federal levels. The discussion turns to the three-strikes law that sentences felons to lengthy jail terms (even for life in some cases) for minor offenses based on their past criminal history. The author argues that while the original intent of three-strikes was to ensure that rapists and other violent offenders remained in jail for repeating criminal acts, in reality the law has created serious problems for non-violent offenders since the law never said the crimes being committed in order to be eligible for three strikes had to be of a violent nature. These laws have, however, resulted in a reduction in violent crime rates. The chapter proceeds to discuss recidivism, in which those who were imprisoned are rearrested. It also discusses the death penalty and the biases related to geography, social class (those who are more poor and have less education are more likely to be sentenced to death), gender (the number of women who are put to death for crimes of murder is disproportionately low when compared to the rates in which they commit murder) and race-ethnicity (minorities are far more likely to be executed). The information window page discusses the difference between serial killers and mass murders, nothing that the major difference is that serial killers engage in murder over a spread out period of time. The chapter finishes up with a few more discusses related to criminal justice. There is a section whether there are benefits to vigilantism, with Mexico being used as an example; then it talks about the effect that police discretion over whether or not to give a ticket has on official crime statistics; the role that mental illness plays in deviance; and finally, the call for taking a more compassionate approach to dealing with this issue.

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