Term Paper: Deviance and Social Control

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Deviance and Social Control

Deviance is any act or thought (especially when expressed) that goes against the idea of the culture's social order. Deviance can develop into crime, though this is not necessarily the case. Deviance can be described as anything that verges on deviant, or divergent from the standards and traditions of a culture and can be different among cultures, though there are several issues of deviance (almost always defined as crime) that are universal to most cultures, such as the crime of unmitigated murder of another human being or incest as both of these issues are considered harmful to the individual and culture involved. (Bridges & Myers, 1994, p. 27)

Deviance can serve the function of defining the norm, as deviant behavior even in the most banal form can be used as an example for others of what not to do or how not to act. One example of deviance that is culturally specific is such things as facial tattoos. In most cultures (though there are exceptions) facial tattoos are considered a form of self imposed deformity and people will likely develop preconceived notions regarding an individual who has such. To expand this example one might consider how an individual parent might warn their children never to tattoo their own face, or might visibly pull their children away from such "deviants" in public. Individuals who are more "mainstream" i.e. normal can also perpetuate the idea that tattoos are a symptom or a social mark of other deviant behaviors (such as having been in prison) and thus teach their children these lessons as forms of social control of the next generation. (Hewitt, 1997, p. 69)

Another example is open display of homosexual affection. In most cultures (though again there are exceptions) it is still relatively unacceptable i.e. deviant to be homosexual and openly displaying affection to someone of the same gender is considered especially deviant. Individuals in public might do something as simple as avoid eye contact with individuals engaged in open homosexual affection or be more obtrusive and shout at or throw something at the couple. Either way their example is set for anyone watching that this behavior is not acceptable to them. Neither of these forms of deviance are crimes (or enforced crimes) but there is still a certain stigma associated with both that holds allowable social control functions up to the public if they choose to make such a decision. (Bridges & Myers, 1994, p. 27)

Another equally important function of deviance is to challenge the "norm" of a culture so it might expand its conception of "normal." Political deviance and social deviance that challenges traditional accepted forms of acting and being have served as the force for social change for as long as man has lived in community. Deviance such as social protest, say of war or representation has served as an agent for change that has expanded human rights. It therefore becomes up tot the members of the culture to gain greater tolerance for social… [END OF PREVIEW]

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