Deviance Essay

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Essay unit 3 Robert Decker

The term "deviance" usually refers to some behavior that is inconsistent with standards of acceptable conduct prevailing in a given social group. The term has also been used to designate personal conditions, ideas, or statuses that are stigmatized or disreputable. Socialists disagree, about a precise definition of deviance because they use different approaches in trying to determine exactly what the standards of conduct or the acceptable statuses and conditions are in a given group. At least five ways of conceptualizing deviance are used.

The statistical approach is one way of defining standards of conduct and deviance from them is to observe how people in a particular group actually behave. If a large proportion of people in a group smoke cigarettes, smoking is "normal" while failure to smoke would be atypical, or deviant. With a "statistical" perspective, sky diving, eating snails, and murder are all deviant in the United States since they are all unusual. On the other hand, highway speeding, cheating on one's income tax, and pilfering small items from employers are all conforming behaviors since they are currently committed by a large proportion of the population.

The absolutist approach is a second approach which applies ideal conduct standards set down by a social scientist to all groups and individuals under study. A social scientist decides what is good, useful, or just, and then measures deviations from those evaluative criteria. Functionalists view societies as interdependent mechanisms; all parts that work together for maintenance of the society are regarded as essential and in that sense good, or non-deviant. But a society may contain dysfunctional or dangerous elements, which are considered deviant. Most who use this approach assume that societies will usually condone good behaviors and condemn those that are bad. It has been argued that contemporary societies exist because throughout history they practiced...
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