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Complete 3 page APA formatted essay: Theories of Deviance.Download file to see previous pages... The notion of social deviance relates to a behavior that violates social norms and is considered inadmi
Complete 3 page APA formatted essay: Theories of Deviance.Download file to see previous pages...
The notion of social deviance relates to a behavior that violates social norms and is considered inadmissible. However, this broad definition of deviance misses many subtle details of this phenomenon. Indeed, one of the deviance-related problems for the social sciences is the exact origin of social deviance, namely the separation of deviant people from the rest of common people. Clearly, such macro factors as legitimate prevailing ideology maintained in a society by groups endowed with power, and means of attribution of deviant status to people are directly involved into the phenomenon of social deviance. Let us discuss in detail two theories of deviance that may help better understand this appearance: labeling theory and social constructionist perspective.Being related to the symbolic interactionism perspective in sociology, the labeling theory is concerned with interpretation of human behavior in terms of the symbolic social meaning that any form of behavior has. However, the labeling theory is preoccupied with the role of self-image as a powerful form of such symbolic social meaning. The propensity of our self-image to be formed as the result of our interactions with other people actually leads to the conclusion that our self is mostly a social phenomenon.The emergence and development of the labeling theory in its modern form occurred in the twentieth century. In 1902 Charles Cooley detailed the way people tend to perceive themselves, and introduced the concept of the looking glass self under which people construct self-images as if through the eyes of others. In 1934 George Mead proposed a theory that was less focused on the micro level of deviance and more interested in the macro processes of differentiation of the conventional and denounced behavior. For this purpose Mead put the self-perception in the larger social context, and treated the self as the product of processing of social interactions and symbols by an individual mind. In 1938 Frank Tannenbaum described the notion of a deviant behavior as having distinct meanings for juvenile delinquents and for the common public. In this situation, the deviant label instigates increase of deviance.
What is usually considered to be the original modern version of the labeling theory was presented in 1951 by Edwin Lemert, who, not satisfied with the traditional formulations of the concept of deviance, highlighted the social influences on deviance. Lemert interpreted deviance as the result of reaction of society on certain inadmissible actions reinforced by the attachment of a deviant label on perpetrators. Lemert also distinguished the primary and the secondary deviance. The primary deviance is the initial occurrence of an event that leads to an attachment of the deviant label, and if a person accepts such a label and continues to behave in a deviant way, this line of action is termed the secondary deviance. Interestingly, for Lemert the causes of the primary deviance are diverse, and are only relevant for studying of specific social problems.
Another influential labeling theorist Howard Becker in his 1963 work "Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance" also elaborated the view of deviance as of not merely some type of behavior, but as of a product of social interaction. Becker criticized theories of deviance that conformed to the accepted values of the majority, and pointed out that it was not that crucial to examine concrete individual deviant actions because deviance is only a behavior that breaks rules and leads to the attachment of deviant labels by representatives of the powerful groups. To bolster this supposition Becker observed that while some deviant behavior is always present in any given society, the labeling of such behavior may vary in correspondence with opinions of the majority. But in any case, persons inclined to deviant behavior perceive themselves as being morally different from the rule-abiding members of the society, and may grow to view them as outsiders of their smaller social group.