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Compare and Contrast the Main Sociological Theories of Deviance.

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Introduction

COMPARE AND CONTRAST THE MAIN SOCIOLOGICAL THEORIES OF DEVIANCE Deviance is a wide-ranging term used by sociologists to refer to behaviour that varies, in some way, from a social norm. In this respect, it is evident that the concept of deviance refers to some form of "rule-breaking" behaviour. In relation to deviance, therefore, the concept relates to all forms of rule-breaking whether this involves such things as murder, theft or arson - the breaking of formal social rules - or such things as wearing inappropriate clothing for a given social situation, failing to produce homework at school or the breaking of relatively informal social rules. In practice, the study of deviance is usually limited to deviance that results in negative sanctions. In fact, the American sociologist, M. Clinard, has suggested that the term deviance should only be applied to behaviour that is disapproved of, and punished by a community. Non-sociological understanding of deviance tends to acknowledge the presence of something within the individual that compels, or at least orientates, them to commit certain acts. It is vitally important to recognise that deviance is relative, the context in which behaviour occurs is crucial to how it will be evaluated. This means that there is not an absolute way of defining a deviant act. Deviance can only be defined in relation to a particular standard of behaviour, and no standards are fixed forever as absolutes. As such, deviance varies from time-to-time, place-to-place and person-to-person. In one society, an act that is considered deviant today may be defined as normal in the future. Possible examples are polygamy, one-parent families, or the age of consent. An act defined as deviant in one society may be seen as perfectly normal in another. Deviance is culturally determined, and cultures differ both from each other and within the same culture over time. The very idea of the born criminal/deviant is a very strong part of our popular culture, and it has the enormous side benefit of directing blame at the deviant individual, while excluding social factors. ...read more.

Middle

Aware of being branded failures by the school, the lower streams develop their own subculture, based on a reversal of school values. The subculture becomes a collective response to status denial. For lower stream boys the subculture has two uses: It creates an alternative set of values so they can compete for status among their peers. It provides a means of hitting back at society. Petty theft or vandalism, for example, may have a measure of malice or revenge within them. Cohen therefore argues that delinquents are no different from other adolescents in seeking status. Cohen thus addresses the second and third of the problems left unresolved by Merton. Cloward and Ohlin. In an attempt to link Merton's concept of anomie, which argued that people turn to crime if they had few legal opportunities, these writers believed that Merton had ignored the existence of an illegitimate opportunity structure. This opportunity structure had three levels: Criminal subculture: Providing the opportunity for a career in crime. There needed to be a stable, cohesive working class community with contacts in the mainstream and illegal communities, successful role models for the young, and a career structure for aspiring criminals. Conflict subculture: Existing if the criminal subculture is absent. If no criminal career is available to young males they may turn their frustration at failure in both the legitimate and illegitimate opportunity structures into violence. Retreatist subculture: Being the one that takes the double failures, those who don't make it in crime or violence. The failures retreat into drugs and petty theft. The approach has been criticised for making the same assumptions as Merton, that everyone seeks the same goal of financial success. A further problem is that there is no evidence to support the idea of subculture as described by Cloward and Ohlin. Both Cohen and Cloward and Ohlin suggest that crime results from a distinctive youth sub-culture, which provides alternative guidelines to the mainstream culture. ...read more.

Conclusion

Along with Box's mystification of crime, it can be seen that laws are bias as it seems to advantage the bourgeoisie. Functionalists contradicts Marxists' ideas as functionalists, suggested that law is a reflection of the will of people while Marxists disagree and suggest that law is a reflection of the will of the powerful. Marxists suggested that the law is controlled by the powerful, this was supported by their idea of the manipulation of values, where the mainstream of the society, the court, the police etc. are predominantly middle class and would be bias towards the ruling class people. Law creation is another one as Marxists suggested that most laws are passed by members of the parliament whom are mainly from the bourgeoisie. They have the ability to manipulate themselves to the laws. Law creation and law enforcement happens in consistently to show why people in control tends to be bias. Marxists mainly concentrate on the class distribution and stress that they the ruling class control the norms and values of the society. It will not be classed as deviant unless the bourgeoisie say so and they will not say so unless it is committed by a working class person. An example of this approach employed in research is provided by Phil Cohen (1972). He studied the youth of East London in the early 1970s. He examined: The immediate context and the wider context. He analysed the way that two different youth subcultures reacted to the changes occurring in their community. Cohen argued that the youth cultures developed to cope with the loss of community in East London, but also they reflected the divisions within society. He suggests that the mode of reaction was to the new ideology of affluence; they wanted to show they had money and knew how to spend it. In contrast skinheads looked back to the more traditional working class community. In conclusion, sociological theories of deviance vary depending on the various approaches. For an act to be considered deviance varies from place to place and the time. ...read more.

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