Dana L Ward
Athens State University
Positivist and Constructionist Theories: Basic Differences
There is a basic difference in the two theories known as positivist and constructionist in sociology. It is considered determinism. In order to understand the theories and deviance, one must understand determinism. What is determinism? It is the belief that everything is already decided and occurs based on every thought, action and feeling we have by things that have already happened. The future then is determined by our past. Positivism originated with August Comte. It was considered a philosophical approach that replaced speculation with science. Positivist theorists believe deviance is real and falls under three categories. First that deviance is absolutely real. Second, that deviance is observable or like an object and third that deviance is determined by forces. The old school positivism relied on biological reasons or factors. The newer idea or contemporary school looks at society as the cause of deviance. If deviance is the opposite of normalcy then what is normal? According to Emile Durkheim, normal is defined by specific behaviors or characteristics that are present in majority of cases, and exceptions are abnormal (Wikipedia). On the other hand, constructivism looks at finding the source for why we believe the way we believe, and life experiences effect, on those beliefs. They don’t consider the world as being divided into right and wrong, deviant and non-deviant. They believe the issue is not why certain people violate norms but how norms are constructed (including what factors are considered in defining people or labeling them as deviant) and how are sanctions applied--why are some people engaged in certain behaviors (or who possess particular characteristics) condemned and labeled, "deviant." Society has a tendency to label behavior that does not meet their definition of normal therefore...