We’re using our understanding of the three schools of sociological theory to breakdown deviance and crime this week. What is deviance? What is crime? How are they different? How does society create the definitions of what is a deviant behavior and what is a criminal act? We discuss power and inequality, as well as look at deviance and crime through the lens of the three schools of sociological thought – structural functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism. Check out our previous episode on the three schools of thought, SOC207, if you haven’t already so you understand our discussion today! Thanks for listening and please give us a rating, too!
1) Expectation of a norm (or “mores” i.e., thou shall not murder, thou shall not steal for personal gain, intended or unintended violence towards children etc.)
2) Violation of a norm
3) Personal and/or societal reaction to the norm being broken (informal and/or formal sanctions)
Deviance is a socially defined construct and refers to any action, belief, or human characteristic that members of a society or a social group consider a violation of group norms for which the violator is likely to be censured or punished.
We quote Howard Becker (1963), saying, “Deviance is not a consequence of the act the person commits, but rather a consequence of the [creation and] application by others of rules and sanctions to an ‘offender’ ” This comes from his book, Outsiders.
Violence can seem very personal and easily attributed to biological tendencies. The recent trend in mass shootings have often been explained by issues related to mental health. It’s easy to blame the individual for acts of violence, but that’s only one way of looking at violence. In sociology, violence actually takes many different forms from verbal to physical to symbolic to systemic. And sociologists have interesting theories to explain why violence occurs. This week we discuss the classic debate of nature VS nurture in regards to violence, and how theorists have posited that there is no such thing as violent individuals, but simply violent situations. Join us as we pick apart this gnarly debate!
“Violence might appear to be an unpredictable outburst or unexplainable explosion, but it arises with geometrical precision. It is unpredictable and unexplainable only if we seek its origins in the characteristics of individuals (such as their beliefs or frustrations) or in the characteristics of societies, communities, or other collectivities (such as their cultural values or level of inequality). But violent individuals and violent collectivities do not exist: No individual or collectivity is violent in all settings at all times, and neither individualistic nor collectivistic theories predict and explain precisely when and how violence occurs”
“violence is a set of pathways around confrontational tension and fear. Despite their bluster, and even in situations of apparently uncontrollable anger, people are tense and often fearful in the immediate threat of violence—including their own violence; this is the emotional dynamic that determines what they will do if fighting actually breaks out.”
Sociologists might not be able to make a time machine, but we’re certainly good at mythbusting! Social mythbusting that is! Our first topic to bust: Crime. Citizens of any society have preconceived notions of crime, and these ideas can tell us something about the dominant social order, morality, and normative behavior. So, let’s discuss! Are we living in the most violent time? Trump wants to blame everything on “undocumented criminals,” but are undocumented immigrants accountable for a large portion of crime? Oh– and prison/jail, that’s the same thing, right?
Crime, criminology, criminal justice system
Criminology by Edwin Sutherland (1974) defines the field as, “the study of law making, breaking, and law enforcement.”
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
“both illegal immigrants and legal immigrants have incarceration rates far below those of native-born Americans—at 0.85 percent, 0.47 percent, and 1.53 percent, respectively….Immigration restrictionists cannot have it both ways. They cannot assume that illegal immigrants are super-criminals and that their population in the United States is several times higher than it really is. No matter how you dice the numbers, their incarceration rate falls as their estimated population increases. For consistency’s sake, it’s time for immigration restrictionists to choose which myth they want to believe.” (“The first myth is that illegal immigrants are especially crime-prone. The second myth is that there are actually two to three times as many illegal immigrants as is commonly reported.”)