Not All Deviant Acts Are Criminal

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Deviance affirms cultural values and norms, it also clarifies moral boundaries, promotes social unity and provides jobs to control deviance. Deviant behaviour is contextual in nature in that cultural differences make it very problematic to define deviance. One may ask this question on deviance, are humans genetically predisposed at birth with the characteristics that make them act deviantly, or do the people around them influence them to act this way. This writer seeks to expound on the fact that deviance is not only criminal and will also highlight the causes and circumstances where individuals end up exhibiting deviant behaviour.

Deviance is defined by Haralambos (2006) as acts which do not conform to the norms and values of a particular society. Norms are the rules or standards of behaviour defined by the shared expectations of a group of people. Similarly, Ezewu (1985) defines deviance as non- conformity to the standards of behaviour of a group or society. Since deviance culturally defined, it is not prescribed in parliament and therefore is not a universal phenomenon but rather a contextual phenomenon. One would need to understand the norms and values of a particular culture before labelling anyone deviant.

Deviance can be viewed in different angels depending on which cultural binoculars you are using as well as the sociological perspective being applied. Different sociological perspectives view deviance in a different manner. From a Marxist point of view, the important questions which require attention are who makes the law, who breaks the law and who gets caught or labelled deviant. Snider (1993) argues that deviance as exhibited through crime is more damaging and severe at corporate level rather than street crime. Corporate crime costs more that street crime. Statistics however, show that most corporate crime goes unpunished and this means that the upper class or bourgeoisie get away with crime whilst those in the lower class are sent to prison or heavily fined.

The Marxist view on deviance brings out the more criminal aspects in that, Marxism takes into account the issue of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the ‘haves’ and the ‘have not’. In an endeavour by certain individuals to attain certain status and wealth, they may end up using unorthodox means to acquire the wealth and status hence end up committing crime and being labelled deviant. Karl Max further argues that the bourgeoisie make laws which are more favourable to them than to the working class. These laws end up disadvantaging the working class and thereby pushing them to commit crime.

The functionalist view of deviance was made popular by Emile Durkheim, who argued that there is nothing abnormal about deviance, and that it has various essential functions. Durkheim explained that deviance "affirms cultural values and norms”. He was of the view that without evil there cannot be any good. Deviant behaviour shows that there is inadequate socialisation of an individual. Certain structures of the society will be failing to uphold values that will make the individual shun deviant activities. For example if the family, school or church structures are not teaching the children the value of integrity as explained by not stealing other people’s property, the children will exhibit deviant behaviour through stealing. The conclusion on the functionalist theory shows that some forms of deviance can be classified as criminal yet others are not criminal.

On the other hand, feminist sociologist argues that deviance among women is as a result of gender inequities caused by man. These inequities are mainly based on patriarchy, religion and culture. In the Shona culture where this scholar belongs, patriarchy rules and children are brought up and socialised to understand that the men is the head of the house and has more rights and privileges than women. Inheritance for the kin is left to the boy child and not the girl child. As they...
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