Deviance and Crime

Deviance:

Deviance refers to behaviors and conditions that violate our expectations about “normal people”.

Unemployment, drug addiction, physical handicaps, shortness, obesity, divorce, nudists, smokers, alternative sexual lifestyle.

Conceptions of deviance:

  • Statistical—deviation from average
  • Absolutists—violates values, morality
  • Reactivist—behavior that gets noticed
  • Normative—violation of norms

Deviance and Crime:

  • Deviance is socially defined
  • One particular category of deviance is crime—acts that violate our culture’s formal norms or laws
  • The definition of deviance and crime is a form of social control—any and all efforts to prevent and or correct deviant behavior, to limit our behavior

Defining Deviance:

  • Sociological research into crime and deviance asks several important questions:
    • How is deviance or criminal behavior defined?
    • How are people defined as deviant?
    • How does a person become deviant?
    • Why do people participate in deviant behavior?
    • Why is there deviance?
    • Why doesn’t it go away?

How is deviance defined?

  • Conflict perspective. The norms of society reflect the interests of the rich and powerful—deviant labels are applied to people who interfere with the operation of capitalism.
    • Behaviors that threaten capitalist operations are more likely to be considered deviant

Why is there deviance?

  • Structural-functionalism. Durkheim wrote that deviance is a necessary element of social organization.
    • Affirms cultural values and norms
    • Clarifies moral boundaries
    • Brings people together
    • Encourages social change

How are people defined as deviant?

  • Labeling Theory. Deviance and conformity result not so much from what people do but from how others respond to these actions
    • No act is inherently deviant
    • Society defines certain behaviors as deviant, labels individuals as deviant, and treats them as outcasts
    • There are two kinds of deviance: Primary and Secondary
    • Stigma of label makes deviant “visible”

Why do people participate in deviant behavior?

  • Strain Theory (Merton). The extent and kind of deviance depends on whether a society provides the means to achieve cultural goals.
    • Deviance arises from particular social arrangements
    • Conformity lies in pursuing conventional goals through approved means

Why do people participate in deviant behavior?

  • Social Control Theory. Social control depends on anticipating the consequences of one’s behavior and internalizing the social controls of society.
    • When norms aren’t internalized, people are more likely to turn to criminal behavior.
    • Social controls work better in certain circumstances.

How does a person become deviant?

  • Differential Association/Deviant Subcultures. A person’s tendency toward conformity or deviance depends on the amount of contact with others who encourage or reject conventional behavior
    • Deviance is learned.

Crime:

Types of crime:

  • “Street crime” or “common crimes”
  • Crimes against person
  • Crimes against property
  • Victimless crimes
  • White collar crime—crimes committed by middle and upper class people during course of their business and social lives
  • Corporate crime—committed by corporation on behalf of corporation
  • Organized crime—provide and profit from illegal goods

Measuring Crime:

  • How do we know what type of crime is most “harmful”?
    • Costs of crime: direct loss of property, transfer of property, costs of criminal violence, illegal expenditures, enforcement costs, prevention and protection costs
  • How do we know how much criminal activity is taking place?
    • Police reports (FIRs) vs. Victimization surveys

 

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