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SOC212: Chapter 1 – On the Sociology of Deviance CRP

Ross Au

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Overall, I felt that this chapter addresses some common misconceptions that are perceived when
defining the word “deviant”. It provided a more objective viewpoint on the subject matter, rather than
just the standard approach that most institutions make in an attempt to thwart deviant behavior by
simply saying that deviant behavior is bad, and then listing the consequences of such actions. Also, I
found that although the chapter did a great job at explaining what deviance is, there wasn't much of a
focus on why people perform deviant acts (although admittedly this subject may be more of an interest
to psychologists rather than sociologists).

What I found most interesting about the reading was the information presented about the
“commitment ceremonies” that certain deviants undergo. The fact that people are labeled as
“criminals” while incarcerated, but never really being purged of that status after leaving prison is a
major flaw in the rehabilitation system. One that I certainly overlooked. I feel as If though after a
person gets out of prison, their criminal record never really goes away, thus burning down any bridges
that may help that person to transition back to a normal life. In such a scenario, it becomes evident
why so many ex-cons seem obliged to resort back to criminal behavior.

Keepers:

1) Deviance can be seen as a somewhat necessary part of a functioning community. This is because
while rules govern what people within a group can do, deviant behavior and its consequences provide a
boundary that provides a clear outline to the aforementioned group, what its members can not do.
From this, a set of norms can be established, however, it is also important to note that these norms are
constantly in flux.

2) The institutions that are designed to rehabilitate/punish deviant forces actually do more to reinforce
deviant ideas, rather than set out to accomplish their original goal to manage them. I think that this is a
critical idea to understand if society is to further its study on deviant behavior, because (with reference
to main idea number 1 that I mentioned earlier) deviant behavior is an important part of a functional
society. Thus, I believe that deviant behavior is going to be inevitable, and since evidence shows that
these so-called rehabilitation facilities are not as effective as they seem, it is important to modify
current methods of decriminalization in order to further the development of social stability as a whole.

Questions:

1) The author states that deviance is defined differently at different levels of human collectivity
(ex: within the family, at a court trial etc.), however, is there such a thing as an action that can
be defined as universally deviant? Of course most people would consider the act of murder as
such an action, but what about warring tribes in less developed countries? Certainly these
people have rules that may govern their own tribes, but I don't think there would be any sort of
state government within the country that would enforce a no-murder policy between tribes that
may be killing others for territory, resources, etc.

2) There is emphasis that deviance plays a role as a “relevant figure” in a community. However, I
would like to ask, how a community would theoretically function if all traces of deviance were
completely eradicated? Would it create some sort of false utopian society, where every action is
accounted for by the state (as in the case of Orwell's “1984”), or would it create an extremely
efficient society in which no one would ever have to worry about being a victim of deviant
behavior?

Why does the topic matter?

The topic of deviance within a community is important because it happens everyday, whether it
is a minor infraction or a major one. Because of this, it has an effect on the behavior and social norms
observed by everyone within the community. Also, it is a subject worth noting especially to the justice
system because it allows further insight to proper rehabilitation, and thus contributing to the betterment
of the standard of living.