Deviant Behavior
eBook - ePub

Deviant Behavior

Erich Goode

Share book
416 pages
ePUB (mobile friendly)
Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

Deviant Behavior

Erich Goode

Book details
Book preview
Table of contents

About This Book

Deviant Behavior offers an engaging and wide-ranging discussion of deviant behavior, beliefs, and conditions. It examines how the society defines, labels, and reacts to whatever, and whoever, falls under this stigmatizing process—thereby providing a distinctly sociological approach to the phenomenon. The central focus in defining what and who is deviant is the audience —members of the influential social collectivities that determine the outcome of this process. The discussion in this volume encompasses both the explanatory (or positivist) approach and the constructionist (or labeling) perspectives, thereby lending a broad and inclusive vista on deviance. The central chapters in the book explore specific instances or forms of deviance, including crime, substance abuse, and mental disorder, all of which share the quality that they and their actors, believers, or bearers may be judged by these influential parties in a negative or derogatory fashion. And throughout Deviant Behavior, the author emphasizes that, to the sociologist, the term "deviant" is completely non-pejorative; no implication of inferiority or inherent stigma is implied; what the author emphasizes is that specific members of the society—social circles or collectivities—define and treat certain parties in a derogatory fashion; the sociologist does not share in this stigmatizing process but observes and describes it.

Frequently asked questions
How do I cancel my subscription?
Simply head over to the account section in settings and click on “Cancel Subscription” - it’s as simple as that. After you cancel, your membership will stay active for the remainder of the time you’ve paid for. Learn more here.
Can/how do I download books?
At the moment all of our mobile-responsive ePub books are available to download via the app. Most of our PDFs are also available to download and we're working on making the final remaining ones downloadable now. Learn more here.
What is the difference between the pricing plans?
Both plans give you full access to the library and all of Perlego’s features. The only differences are the price and subscription period: With the annual plan you’ll save around 30% compared to 12 months on the monthly plan.
What is Perlego?
We are an online textbook subscription service, where you can get access to an entire online library for less than the price of a single book per month. With over 1 million books across 1000+ topics, we’ve got you covered! Learn more here.
Do you support text-to-speech?
Look out for the read-aloud symbol on your next book to see if you can listen to it. The read-aloud tool reads text aloud for you, highlighting the text as it is being read. You can pause it, speed it up and slow it down. Learn more here.
Is Deviant Behavior an online PDF/ePUB?
Yes, you can access Deviant Behavior by Erich Goode in PDF and/or ePUB format, as well as other popular books in Law & Criminal Law. We have over one million books available in our catalogue for you to explore.


Criminal Law

CHAPTER 1 Introducing Deviance

Source: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
In Nice, France, a Tunisian immigrant drives a truck through a crowded street, killing 84 and injuring hundreds; when the vehicle stops and pedestrians open the passenger side door, they find the driver dead. In Baltimore, a white teacher posts a racist rant on Facebook; in response, the school board states that the district will not tolerate “discriminatory behavior” of any kind and fires the teacher. One morning, motorists in Mexico spot two bodies hanging from a bridge; they contact the police, who take the bodies down and convey them to the local precinct. In Washington, DC, a senator admits to “sexual improprieties” and agrees to resign. In China, on a train bound for Beijing, two plainclothes police officers arrest a Hong Kong book publisher for putting out books that criticize Communist Party leaders. In Malta, a muckraking journalist drives to her bank; on the way, the car explodes, killing her instantly.
What makes these examples instances of deviance? What imparts to them their specifically deviant quality?
“I know it when I see it” is a common colloquial phrase many of us use when we can’t quite articulate exactly what it is we’re talking about. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart used this phrase when deciding a 1964 case involving whether a French film, The Lovers, was pornographic or obscene. Can we identify deviance when we see or hear about it? Justice Stewart was looking for a universal, essential quality to pornography. Most contemporary sociologists do not believe that any such inner essence to deviance exists—no central or abiding core that they can identify and characterize verbally. Deviance is not something that’s simply different from the norm; it is something that is considered wrongful by an audience. More than being different and non-normative, that “something” tends to stimulate a negative response in parties who observe or find out about it. No such phenomenon rises before us, announcing to the world, “Here I am!” when we encounter it. Inevitably, studying and writing about such a cloudy yet emotion-laden subject attracts disputation and controversy. Hence, we need a clear-thinking, truth-telling Diogenes to guide us through disagreements and seeming ambiguities. The goal of this chapter is to spell out the different ways that sociologists have defined deviance and weigh and consider its cognate characteristics and elucidate its major manifestations, that is, behavior, beliefs, and physical characteristics. It’s not sociologists who are labeling deviance—it is the multiple social audiences—society and its members—who react negatively when they encounter something they find objectionable.

Deviance: What Is It?

Marshall Clinard’s volume Sociology of Deviant Behavior—the first modern textbook published on the subject—defined deviance as “deviations from social norms which encounter disapproval” (1957, p. vii), a definition that came to be widely adopted and seem entirely sensible, but it’s only a beginning. I’d like to qualify, shade, and complicate Clinard’s definition a bit. Whose norms? How widely held are these norms? How much disapproval do these supposed deviations need to attract from audiences in order for us to decide that they are in fact instances of deviance? Are these norms sanctioned by the society at large—or do different, diverse, and scattered social circles sanction different norms? Here, we need to provide answers to these questions.
When we encounter behavior, expressed beliefs, and even physical traits or characteristics that we consider offensive, improper, unseemly, or inappropriate—the “deviations from social norms” Clinard mentions—there’s a certain likelihood that we will punish, condemn, stigmatize, humiliate, shun, or steer clear of the normatively deviating party. In a similar fashion, if a type of behavior in question is illegal, law enforcement is likely to step in and make an arrest. In other words, societies exercise some forms of social control. If social control is never exercised, societies almost inevitably collapse into chaos and anarchy. But this formulation leaves some issues unresolved. When members of audiences observe something of which they disapprove, when and under what circumstances do they express disapproval?
Even if we see something we regard as wrongful, sometimes we react negatively, sometimes we don’t. Why? What’s the pattern here? Under what circumstances do we do the one—or the other? Here, I address these issues; they are central to the sociology of deviance.
Sociologists define deviance as behavior, beliefs, and characteristics that violate society’s, or a collectivity’s, norms, the violation of which tends to attract negative reactions from one or more audiences. Such negative reactions include contempt, punishment, hostility, condemnation, criticism, denigration, condescension, stigma, pity, and/or scorn—and lots more as well. Not all negative reactions are immediately evident or obvious as forms of denigration and condemnation. Sometimes people just walk away from what they disapprove of. They may snub or ignore someone, express a blank, stony stare, or make a mental note not to socialize with that person in the future, decide to interact with him or her less, or say negative things, or interact in a less cordial fashion.
How do people react to seeing what they regard as unacceptable or reprehensible behavior, or hear beliefs of which they disapprove, or observe physical characteristics they regard as repulsive? And who are these “people,” these relevant audiences? In all probability, the most common negative reaction to what the relevant parties regard as unacceptable or deviant is the withdrawal of sociability—potentially interacting individuals, as I explained, removing themselves from the presence of the normative offender in question. How offensive does something have to be for the sociologist to refer to it as deviant? The short answer is: It doesn’t matter; deviance is a matter of degree. The stronger the negative reaction and the greater the number of audiences that react this way—and the more sizable and influential the audiences are—the more likely it is that the violator will attract negative reactions or labeling, and the more certain sociologists feel that they have an instance of deviance on their hands. Not all members of a given audience will react in the same way; usually—even within a specific society or social circle—reactions to normative violations vary. No exact point exists at which the sociologist can say, here’s deviance and there’s conventionality.
It almost goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Deviance varies with respect to how much consensus exists among audiences as to whether and to what extent it is wrongful or sanctionable. “High”-consensus (or higher-consensus) deviance consists of actions, beliefs, and conditions for which there is a great deal of agreement that they are unacceptable and that the actor, believer, or bearer should be stigmatized, punished, condemned, or sanctioned for engaging or believing in or possessing them. “Low”-consensus (or lower- consensus) deviance is made up of those acts, beliefs, or traits that audiences less generally feel this way about. Of course, degrees of consensus vary not merely within the same society but across societies generally. Though no absolute cultural “universals” exist, for some actions, beliefs, and conditions, we can locate substantial consensus with regard to their sanctionability.
When we want to know what’s deviant, we can perform a mental experiment. We activate our imagination and picture thousands of settings, thousands of audiences or observers, different people hearing about the hypothetical behavior, imagine all manner of behaviors being enacted, being narrated, being told about—then visualize the responses. We do the same thing with expressed beliefs and physical characteristics. To define something as sociological deviance, we need not witness negative, punishing, or condemnatory reactions every time an audience witnesses or hears about something. People may store up hostility, resentment, and other negative feelings about what they’ve seen and heard and react more overtly the next time. But the more often it is reacted to negatively, the more deviant it is. Sociologists conduct polls and surveys, do some observation of their own, ask people about how they feel about behavior, beliefs, and physical traits. The results of this effort tells us what audiences consider deviant; we sound people out, discuss our feelings about such matters with others, and eventually get some idea that some things are widely considered or regarded as wrongful or unacceptable in certain social circles, among certain categories of people, or in the society at large. If we are responsive, empathetic observers, if we watch the responses of others, pay attention to a great deal of feedback, including from the media, if we’re students of our own society, able to put ourselves in the shoes of others, we will have some sense of what others consider reprehensible. While specific reactions to certain behaviors, beliefs, or traits will vary from one situation to another, from one audience to another, after conducting our own research and thought experiments enough times, after interacting with enough people, we will be able to put together a fairly accurate notion of what’s considered deviant in a given society.
Sociologists don’t have to agree with a given negative assessment or react in such negative ways; neither do the rest of us. Nobody has to feel that the violator ought to be chastised, punished, shunned, or denigrated—but it’s the obligation of all of us to notice that certain audiences do react negatively. The fact is, negative reactions to social exchanges define or constitute deviance. And normative violations plus negative reactions seem a good place to start. There’s no essence to deviance, no hard, concrete reality that we can put our hands on that exists independent of such condemnatory or scornful reactions, no quality all deviancies possess—and hence no categorical or generic “cause” of deviance. The defining characteristic of deviance for most sociologists is not harm, injury, wrong, psychopathology, sin, evil, or abusiveness. True, not all behavior, beliefs, or physical characteristics that are generally reacted to negatively generate such reactions in all instances. Perhaps observers tell a friend, a teacher, or a relative about it; perhaps they’ll wait for the appropriate time and place to react. Or perhaps they simply sublimate their reactions and feel resentful and lash out at someone else. It’s possible that they disagree with the majority negative judgment.
A definition is not a theory. The sociologist’s definition of deviance conceptualizes what deviance is, sociologically speaking. It does not formulate a cause-and-effect explanation for why people behave the ...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Deviant Behavior
APA 6 Citation
Goode, E. (2019). Deviant Behavior (12th ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2019)
Chicago Citation
Goode, Erich. (2019) 2019. Deviant Behavior. 12th ed. Taylor and Francis.
Harvard Citation
Goode, E. (2019) Deviant Behavior. 12th edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Goode, Erich. Deviant Behavior. 12th ed. Taylor and Francis, 2019. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.