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I will then move on to look at the area of postmodern social theory as exemplified in the work of, among others Michel Foucault, and how such notions of privileging and minor narratives can be used to challenge criminal stereotypes and provide a sound foundation for future practice. It is not enough, as most commentators point out (Haralambos, 1991; Giddens, 2001; Downes and Rock, 1998 etc.) to suggest that it is merely the study of criminal activity, although they are of course inextricably linked.As Lefton, Skipper and Mc Caghy state (1968) the sociology of deviance, like many definitions in the social sciences, can best be thought of as a series of linked practices that are generally considered as constituting a partially homogenous discipline: “Traditionally (for instance) in American sociology the study of deviance has focused on criminals, juvenile delinquents, prostitutes, suicides, the mentally ill, drug users and drug addicts, homosexuals and political and religious radicals.” (Lefton, Skipperand Mc Caghy, 1968: v) It is obvious from this statement that not only are problematic but so too are definitions of deviance itself.Deviance can only be defined in relation to a particular standard and no standards are fixed or absolute.
Although excessive deviance could be symptomatic of an unhealthy or dysfunctional society, perhaps surprisingly, Durkheim argued that deviance itself was functional, normal and inevitable.
Durkheim argued that in a functioning society there is a value consensus (a shared set of norms and values) into which, thanks to various social institutions, the vast majority in a society have been socialised.
Durkheim argues that even in a "society of saints" there would still be deviance.
In other words, as deviance describes any behaviour that goes against the norms, values and expectations of a society, all societies have deviance, even though the sorts of behaviour considered deviant might vary from society to society. If people never deviated from a society's norms and values then society would never change; and change can be a very good thing (although functionalists would promote incremental, organic change rather than radical change).
It is unlikely, given today’s socio-political climate that gay men or lesbians would be included under the heading of deviance and the same possibly goes for the mentally ill.
A working definition of deviance as Haralambos (1991) suggests should involve some idea of relativity; with the current moral and ethical trends and mores taken as a benchmark for comparison: “Deviance is a relative: there is no absolute way of defining a deviant act.One of the ways in which this consensus is reinforced is through the policing of the margins: the formal and informal sanctions used to either reward those who conform or punish those who deviate.Indeed, our shared disapproval of deviant behaviour strengthens our social solidarity.Reach the audience you really want to apply for your teaching vacancy by posting directly to our website and related social media audiences.Illustrate your discussion with reference to age and crime.He gives the example of prostitution, suggesting that it has the positive function of releasing men's sexual tension. ) Durkheim argued that too much or too little deviance was bad for society, suggesting there was either too much or too little social order and control.For example, he argued that there was less deviance in pre-industrial society because of the mechanical solidarity of the society (the nature of the economy and the society meant that social bonds were very tight).Duncan Hall is Subject Lead for Politics and Sociology for tutor2u.Duncan is an experienced social science and humanities teacher, writer and senior examiner.changing attitudes to homosexuality in the 20 century.A further function of deviance was suggested by Kingsley Davies (1967): deviance acted as a safety valve for society.