Deviance, Crime, and Social Control

Read this chapter for a review of deviance, crime, and social control. As you read each section, consider the following topics:

  • Read this section for an introduction to deviance and social control. What do you think about the experiences of the two students discussed in the chapter? Do you agree with the school's ruling about the dress code? Why or why not?
  • Take note of the definition of deviance and how social control is enforced through types of sanctions (Table 1). Can you think of times when you have been affected by sanctions?
  • Take note of the various theoretical perspectives typically used in sociology to describe or explain deviant behavior. Focusing on labeling theory and secondary deviance, can you think of a time in your life when a label assigned to you may have affected your behavior?
  • Take note of the various theoretical perspectives explaining deviance in society. Take note of the examples accompanying each theoretical model.


Deviance and Control

Deviance is a violation of norms. Whether or not something is deviant depends on contextual definitions, the situation, and people's response to the behavior. Society seeks to limit deviance through the use of sanctions that help maintain a system of social control.

Theoretical Perspectives on Deviance

The three major sociological paradigms offer different explanations for the motivation behind deviance and crime. Functionalists point out that deviance is a social necessity since it reinforces norms by reminding people of the consequences of violating them. Violating norms can open society's eyes to injustice in the system. Conflict theorists argue that crime stems from a system of inequality that keeps those with power at the top and those without power at the bottom. Symbolic interactionists focus attention on the socially constructed nature of the labels related to deviance. Crime and deviance are learned from the environment and enforced or discouraged by those around us.

Crime and the Law

Crime is established by legal codes and upheld by the criminal justice system. In the United States, there are three branches of the justice system: police, courts, and corrections. Although crime rates increased throughout most of the twentieth century, they are now dropping.