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.
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 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.
Section 7.1 Deviance and Control
Section 7.2 Theoretical Perspectives on Deviance
Émile Durkheim: The Essential Nature of Deviance
Robert Merton: Strain Theory
Social Disorganization Theory
Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay: Cultural Deviance Theory
Karl Marx: An Unequal System
C. Wright Mills: The Power Elite
Crime and Social Class
Edwin Sutherland: Differential Association
Travis Hirschi: Control Theory
Section 7.3 Crime and the Law
Types of Crimes
Public Perception of Crime
The U.S. Criminal Justice System