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This is the violation of social norms, not depending on how serious the act is, this can result in a negative response from others in society.
Durkheim defined deviancy as a normal condition of society due to loose social structures and weak unsupported norms.
According to Durkheim deviancy is a natural social phenomenon to all societies because it contributes to a stable social structure. Durkheim believed social structure came out of moral consensus (individuals in society knowing the distinction between good and bad therefore maintaining a moral boundary by everybody accepting their 'roles' in society) and social change (when social norms and values no longer represent the general consensus). These two functions can be divided into four roles:
Affirmation of society's cultural values and norms
Clarification of society's moral boundaries
The unification of others in society
Encouraging social change
Robert King Merton also argued that the cause of deviancy was in social structure but extended on the fact that society lacked moral standards.
Merton categorized five types of responses to the individuals quest for success:
Cohen realised that Merton's theory could not explain deviancy in delinquent subcultures, so he suggested that these individuals were not motivated by mainstream goals to acquire weatlh and success.
Cohen identified five features of deviant youth subculures:
collective reaction formation
Howard Saul Becker's theory of labelling
Becker believes that no behaviour is deviant until society reacts and labels particular behaviour as deviant because it does not conform to social norms of the certain time and place.
Albert Kircidel Cohen's theory of deviance
Strengths and limitations of Durkheim's theory
Conformity: when people use socially accepted means to attain goals.
Innovation: when individuals attempt to achieve their goals of success and its rewards illegally. This act is usually found in the uneducated lower class.
Ritualism: individuals who conformed to social norms but failed to achieve success so they continue to persist in their inadequate jobs given up any hope of success.
Retreatism: individuals who failed to achieve success despite having the access to education, ambition and hard work. For example, alcoholics, drug addicts and drop-outs.
Rebellion: individuals who reject normal values in society and replace them with their own values. for example, people who take on the image of a 'hippy.'
A strength of Durkheim's theory is that it has such a general definition that it includes all non-conformist deviant behaviour.
A limitation of Durkheim's theory is that he suggests all deviant acts are beneficial to society so it is difficult for many people to see how things like child abuse or sexual assault have positive outcomes.
Anti-utilitarian: doing what is best for a peer group rather than what benefits society.
Collective reaction formation: subcultural gangs that deliberately go against the dominant norms and values of society to follow their own.
Malice: acts that demonstrate contempt, resentment and spite with the intention of inflicting harm.
Short termism: acts that only live for the moment without considering the long term affects, for example, taking drugs or consuming alcohol.
Group autonomy: everything that focuses on group loyalty.
Strengths and limitations of Merton's theory
A strength of Merton's theory is that it covers a wide range of how individuals in society attain success.
A limitation of the theory is that it doesn't include the individuals in society who don't strive for the general values of success.
Strengths and limitations of Cohen's theory
A strength of Cohen's theory is that it covers the side of society that don't want the dominated values of success.
A limitation is that he focuses a lot on the violence of the subcultures he's identified when there might be other cultures who want to take a less disturbing approach.
Strength and limitations of Becker's theory
A strength of Becker's labelling theory is that is has the assumption that no act is inherently deviant, so this theory can be used to explain all the unfair incidences of assuming deviance across all social classes.
A limitation is that a singular action can be labelled in many ways depending on who is reacting to it, so Becker's theory fails to give examples of condemning acts such as murder or incest. Becker's theory also fails to recognize the individuals who deviate from social norms and are not caught.
Travis Hirschi's theory of deviance
Individuals who fail to anticipate the consequences of their behaviour lack self-control and are therefore more likely to be deviant.
Hirschi identified how four types of social bonds that connect individuals to others influenced the amount of conforming or deviating of social norms: attachment, commitment, involvement and belief.
Attachment: the relationships and bonds an individual has with others and the influence of a positive role model. Individuals who have attachments and care what significant people think about them are less likely to be deviant.
Commitment: Commitment involves the investments, aspirations and goals of an individual. The more individuals invest in things, the less likely they will be deviant because they do not want to risk their commitments.
Involvement: It is less likely that an individual will be deviant when they have involvements in socially approved activities that conform to social norms. If an individual is busy with involvements they will have less time to encounter opportunities to deviate.
Belief: this is an individuals morals and ethics that guide their behaviour. Beliefs are constructed according to relationships with others. People without strong beliefs may be more likely to participate in deviant behaviour because they lack personal ethical boundaries.
Strengths and limitations of Hirschi's theory
A strength of Hirschi's theory was the use of empirical evidence to support what he believed. He surveyed 1,300 high school males in California to compare their acts of self-reported deviance with their levels of attachment, commitment, involvement and belief. When analysing the data Hirschi found that even though the acts of deviance were minor, the social bonds of attachment, commitment and belief had big influences in preventing deviancy.
A limitation of Hirschi's theory is that is failed to accurately define 'social control' and he excluded the significant influence of peers on deviancy.