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Chapter Eight: Deviance and Social Control
Chapter Summary Sociologists use the term deviance to refer to any violation of rules and norms. From a sociological perspective, deviance is relative. Definitions of “what is deviant” vary across societies and from one group to another within the same society. Howard S. Becker described the interpretation of deviance as, “…not the act itself, but the reaction to the act that makes something deviant.” This coincides with the symbolic interactionist view. In some cases, an individual need not do anything to be labeled a deviant. He or she may be falsely accused or discredited because of a birth defect, race, or disease. Even crime is relative when interpreting the deviance of the actor. Deviance is based on adherence to and violation of norms. Human groups need norms to exist. By making behavior predictable, norms make social life possible. Consequently, all human groups develop a system of social control, which involves formal and informal means of enforcing norms. Those who violate these norms face the danger of being labeled “deviant.” Violators can expect to experience negative sanctions for the violation of norms. Members of society who conform to societal norms, especially those who go above and beyond what is commonly expected, receive positive sanctions. In some societies, such as the Amish, shaming is a common negative sanction that acts strongly as a means of social control, minimizing deviance. Biologists, psychologists, and sociologists have different perspectives on why people violate norms. Biological explanations focus on genetic predispositions, psychologists concentrate on abnormalities within the individual (commonly known as personality disorders), and sociologists look at social factors outside the individual. Symbolic interactionists interpret deviance through the following social theories: differential…...

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