Theory & Deviance: Crash Course Sociology #19


As we noted last week, an armed robber
and a pacifist have something in common: They’re both social deviants. But they’re obviously also really different. It’s hard to imagine that some people resort
to armed robbery for some of the same reasons
that other people reject violence. That’s why there are many different theories of deviance that can give us some perspective on how and why both the armed robber and the pacifist become deviant. Through sociology, we can explore how the
deviance of these two very different people
relates to society at large. [Theme Music] To understand where deviance comes
from, we have to go back to the three major
sociological paradigms. And, as you might expect, structural functionalism,
symbolic interactionism, and conflict theories each
offer a different perspective on the matter. Way back in episode 5, we touched on Emile
Durkheim’s structural-functionalist approach
to deviance. His basic insight was that, since deviance
is found in every society, it must serve some
function. And Durkheim argued that deviance serves four
functions in particular: First, he said, deviance helps define cultural
values and norms. Basically, we can only know what’s good
by also understanding what’s not good. He also argued that society’s response to
deviance clarifies moral boundaries. This means that when society reacts to
deviance, it’s drawing a line, saying that when behaviors cross a certain
moral threshold, they can be sanctioned, either
formally or informally. So this can range from a bank robber being
sent to jail, to someone being made fun of
for the way they dress. Durkheim also said that these reactions bring
society together. By reacting in similar ways to something that
seems not-normative, we’re basically affirming to each
other that we’re an “us,” and the deviants are “them.” And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In the more serious instances of deviance
– like, school shootings, for example – you see people uniting around that moral boundary
that’s been breached, and supporting each other. The spontaneous outpourings of outrage, grief, and
charity that you see in response to school shootings
are all examples of this pattern in action. And finally, Durkheim pointed out that deviance
can actually encourage social change. We talked in episode 5 about Rosa Parks’ civil
disobedience, which was by definition deviant, and it was a factor setting off major
changes in American society, in the form
of the Civil Rights Movement. Now, while deviance might be necessary, some
societies can have more or less of it than others. To help explain the difference, American sociologist
Robert Merton proposed, in the 1930s and ‘40s,
what he called strain theory. Merton argued that the amount of deviance in a
society depends on whether that society has provided
sufficient means to achieve culturally defined goals. In the US, financial success is one of the
strongest culturally defined goals. And the means of achieving it include things
like getting an education. So what we call “the American Dream” – the
idea of working hard to achieve financial stability – is a prime example of what Merton called
conformity: achieving culturally set goals by
way of conventionally approved means. Go to school, get good grades, graduate, get
a good job. Work hard. Get rich. Success. Right? Well, of course, even if wealth is your goal,
this approach isn’t an option for a lot of people. Many who are raised in poverty, for instance,
lack a realistic path to prosperity. And if you don’t have access to the means – like
money for an education or good-paying job
opportunities – then the goal will be elusive, too. So one response to the lack of acceptable
means is to use unacceptable means – that
is, deviant ones. Merton called this innovation, but here,
innovation means something a little different
from what you’re used to. Merton used it to describe deviant solutions
that people come up with to reach their goals. In this case, it could include everything
from petty thievery to organized crime. The goal is still financial success, but the
illegitimate means used to get there make it deviant. Now, you might also respond in the opposite
way, by giving up on the goal – in this case,
economic success – and instead committing
totally to following the rules. You might decide that you may never be rich,
but at least you’re not going to be deviant. Merton called this ritualism, a deep devotion
to the rules because they are the rules. Of course, your other option is to reject
the whole system altogether – the means,
the goals, all of it. In this kind of response, which Merton labeled
retreatism, a person basically “drops out” of society,
rejecting both the conventional means and goals. Merton classed drug addicts and alcoholics in
this group, because he saw these addictions as a way
of escaping the pressures of the goals and means. But rejection can also be constructive: Rebellion is a rejection of goals and means, but in
the context of a counterculture – one that supports the
pursuit of new goals according to new means. The artist who doesn’t want financial
success, but instead pursues recognition from
their peers is an example of this. So the structural functionalist perspective
on deviance provides some useful ways of thinking
about how deviance works on a macro scale. But it works on the assumption that everyone
who does deviant things will be treated as deviant. The other paradigms of sociology call
this into question: They point out that social status impacts
how deviance is punished. Or whether it’s punished at all. For example, a symbolic interactionist understands
deviance through what’s known as labeling theory – the idea that things like deviance
and conformity are not so much a matter of
what you do, but how people label it. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble to see how
labels can make a deviant. Imagine a student skipping school. This is an example of primary, or minor, deviance. On its own, the transgression isn’t going
to affect the student’s self-concept. That is, it’s not going to cause her to
think of herself, or label herself, as a deviant. And if she’s an otherwise good student,
then her teacher might just write it off as
a one time thing, and the fact that she cut classes would just
remain a minor, primary deviance. But if the teacher responds more strongly, and
punishes her, then that same infraction of the rules
can escalate into secondary deviance. In this case, a strong sanction could make
the student start to think of herself as a truant. And this can lead to what Erving Goffman
called a stigma: a powerfully negative sort of master status
that affects a person’s self-concept, social identity,
and interactions with others. One of the most powerful effects of stigma
is that it leads to more labeling, especially of
what a person has done, or might still do. For example, a stigmatized student could be
the subject of retrospective labeling, where her past is reinterpreted, so that
she’s suddenly understood as having always
been irresponsible. Likewise, she could be subjected to prospective
labeling, which looks forward in time, predicting
her future behavior based on her stigma. Thanks Thought Bubble. As you can see, the whole process of labeling
can be extremely consequential. And it affects not only how we think of ourselves,
but also who responds to deviance, as well as how they respond, and how the deviant person
is understood in society. Drug abuse, for instance, has largely been
understood as a moral failing. But it’s increasingly being seen as an illness. And as that perception has changed, so too
have the people who respond to drug abuse. Instead of just being a job for law enforcement,
today, instances of drug abuse often involve
both police and medical professionals. And instead of getting jail time, in some
places, violators are given medical and
psychological treatment. In other words, how people respond is beginning
to change. And finally, instead of being judged as
personally culpable for some moral failing, addicts are increasingly seen as suffering from
a disease, freeing them, in part, from some degree of
personal responsibility for their behaviors. So the very way in which they’re understood
is also evolving. There are a couple other symbolic interactionist
approaches to deviance that don’t focus
on the power of labels. Differential association, for example, argues
that who you associate with makes deviance
more or less likely. And control theory focuses on a person’s
self-control as a way of avoiding deviance, as well as their ability to anticipate and
avoid the consequences of their actions. All of these symbolic interactionist approaches
highlight the interpersonal responses to deviance. But a Conflict Theory approach links deviance
to social power. If we look at society, we find that the socially
deviant are not necessarily the most dangerous. Rather, a conflict-theory perspective points
out that they are often the most powerless. Conflict theory can explain why this is so
in a few different ways: For one thing, conflict theory posits that
norms and laws reflect the interests of the
powerful. So the powerful can defend their power by
labeling as deviant anything that threatens
that power. For instance, in capitalist societies, deviant
labels are often applied to those who interfere
with the way capitalism functions. And since capitalism is based on the private
control of wealth, stealing is clearly labeled
as deviant. But there are also different rules for when
the rich target the poor: Petty thieves are treated as deviant in a way
that corporate criminals are not, even though
they both steal from other people. An employee taking goods out of the backroom is
hauled in by the police, while the boss who withholds
overtime pay often doesn’t even pay a fine. And this is the case, according to conflict theory,
because the powerful are able to defend themselves
against labels of deviance, so deviant actions are less likely to lead to a
deviant label and thus reactions to that deviance. Finally, conflict theory points out that norms
have an inherently political nature, but the politics tend to be masked by the
general belief that if something is normative,
it must be right and good. So while we may take issue with how a law
is applied, we much more rarely ask whether
the laws themselves are just or not. Conflict theorists see these explanations
at work wherever the inequality of social
power can be found – across gender, among races, and between
groups of different socioeconomic status. Ultimately, structural functionalism, symbolic
interactionism, and conflict theory all give
us useful tools for understanding deviance. Each of these paradigms is powerful, and we’ll
be making use of all three next week, when
we look specifically at crime. Today we learned about how the three major
paradigms in sociology approach deviance. We talked about structural functionalism and
how deviance can fulfill a function in society. Then we turned to symbolic interactionism
and looked at how deviance is constructed. Finally, we discussed conflict theory and
how deviance is connected to power and inequality. Crash Course Sociology is filmed in the Dr. Cheryl
C. Kinney Studio in Missoula, MT, and it’s made
with the help of all of these nice people. Our animation team is Thought Cafe and Crash
Course is made with Adobe Creative Cloud. If you’d like to keep Crash Course free for
everyone, forever, you can support the series
at at Patreon, a crowdfunding platform that allows
you to support the content you love. Thank you to all of our patrons for making
Crash Course possible with their continued
support.

100 thoughts on “Theory & Deviance: Crash Course Sociology #19

  1. you claim a 'pacifist' is a social deviant, what kind of world are you trying to push by labeling antiwar activists as social outcasts? you are pushing for war and your once great YouTube channel has quite obviously been taken over by pro war influence.

  2. What about conformity within deviant subcultures? Like the South Park episode with the Goth kids all conforming to each other to keep from being called "conformists."

  3. Hi so i love your vids and i was wondering if maybe you could do math? Your videos are incredible and fun and it would help a lot. 🙂

  4. My notifications don't work, I don't understand, what kind of deviance is that called?  I will never get to know.

  5. I still can't believe conflict theory is taught in universities. It's based on so many presuppositions it's rendered completely useless. Worse still, it's USED in some causes to gauge actions to steer society. When those actions inevitably fail, it's never the method of examination that is questioned in terms of the holistic theory.

    How many times do you have to rain dance, and not get rain to consider rain dancing ineffective? Well conflict theory has gone WELL above that.

  6. Given that Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat was not a spontaneous act of defiance, but something planned and carried out in the context of her work within the civil rights community, it may not be the best example of deviance: she may have deviated from the laws of the Jim Crow South, but she was upholding the ideals of her community/subculture, her fellow civil rights' activists. So she was deviant in a sort of the same way Neil Armstrong was deviant.

  7. So does this mean humans naturally put a label on each other, in other words "us vs them", or is it a product of society created for what ever reason (order, stability, calculation, etc)?

  8. We obviously need to find a way to coerce the few thousand deviant powerful into compliance for the greater good as soon as we remove the corrupt government from in the way. Ahh civilization, enjoy it the best for yourself.

  9. it's funny that I got to hear this growing up in WA an CA regularly.But, here in AZ insults only everywhere.

  10. It's too bad you didn't have time to cover other kinds of deviance, like sexual deviance. It would be interesting to see what the various schools have to say about that.

  11. Us and Them mentality is always a bad thing: – It's the cause of all the worlds problems. War? Us vs Them, Famine, Greeds version of US vs Them. Trump results from Us vs Them mentality. The more we travel down this road, the darker western civilisation becomes, and the more we turn away from our core values. Like today where a Federal Court agreed that Trump could have access to voter information. Now you need to ask why does he need that, when no other president needed it?

  12. Fun fact, I only decided on a major in history over sociology while applying to university. Could have been Step Back Sociology

  13. this is such an irresponsible message. i am a recovered drug addict and former criminal. born poor and lived literally on my own after 10th grade. i now have an associates with a 4.0 gpa and just began my BS program at a major university.
    my issue here is that she just taught us that if you are poor, there is no way out but to be a criminal and that's okay because it's not your fault. she also literally said that a person is not culpable for their decision to do drugs. blaming the system and blaming the disease are extremely irresponsible messages because then nobody is encouraged to take any personal action in their own success and they are justified to continue in their failure. I am only successful now through realizing that these things are not true.

  14. and the strain in strain theory is relative. If I am taught that I deserve what other people have that they work for, then I steal it. I don't deserve what they have, I deserve what I work for.

  15. This course is great! I never found sociology interesting before. I guess I've never heard it presented this well. One request though to the editor: please don't cut so closely between her sentences. It makes her sound like she's racing the clock or something. Her sentences are very rich with info and concepts and it would help to have a few more milliseconds to digest before the next one starts.

  16. I'm a little frustrated by these past two videos. Mental illness has now been explained as a way out of deviance. However, for many people, mental illness is what makes them deviant. I understand that in the context of this video, mental illness is still deviant, but I'm frustrated that mental illness isn't addressed as a form of deviance that is neither desirable nor undesirable, but simply fact.

  17. Cue the tie-in with Crash Course Philosophy, and discussion on the philosophy of law. Some rules or norms are not actually 'correct' (logically, factually or morally) but if enough people follow them and believe them to be fair, it is less likely that these rules will be questioned or changed in the future.

  18. I'm finally caught up! i can finally watch these as they come out. also it's good to see the like/dislike ratio has gotten less crazy, i love this subject. as a writer, especially, learning how society functions is extremely helpful to gain insight and construct believable worlds.

  19. This is a really small detail, but I really appreciate you using "across" instead of "between" genders, it's a great small way to acknowledge that there are more than two genders. It's so lovely see the production of new, inclusive educational content.

  20. Nicole's voice is just the right frequency to make my phone speakers buzz like crazy! Pause whole I get my headphones… Lol

  21. I'm pretty sure control theory argues that when a person has more social ties, they are more " socially controlled" and hence will less likely to be deviant. Example: Church goers commit less crime

  22. Straw Man Argument: Culturally defined Goals achieved via Culturally sanctions Means. Work Hard + Education + Follow Rule + Get Money = Success. Those who violate the Social Norms to get the Means (capital) are doing it to achieve sanctioned Goals in a Deviant manner. . . there has GOT to be a getter example than that.

    How about Power? The poor feel (and are) largely Powerless. Jacking a car beings some cash. . . a weeks worth. . . but the Power of taking someone else's stuff is pretty potent. This is why some (rich & poor) criminals keep being "deviant" in an unhealthy way. . . long after they don't 'need' the money. . .

    Suppose you're a drug lord. . . have $150,000,000 in the bank. Do you "need" to keep selling drugs to 15 year olds in LA? No. But you do because $151M is more than $150M. It's in their brain, not their bank accounts.

    The poor steal to survive. But there are those who steal because the want to. Rich or Poor. I knew a City Manager who embezzled $$$ (we don't know how much, he was good at it, but between $150K – $2M). . . but he was already financially 'comfortable' and had no 'need' for the money. . . What was his deal?

    Hope you guys in the Sociology of Criminality figure this one out. . . I've studied it on-and-off for 30 years. . . nothing you guys Publish ever really makes and any sense. . . and it appears nothing you Publish ever really works. . . I'd love to empty out the Prisons . . . seriously. . . I would. . . about 70% of those Incarcerated would do better OUTSIDE that facility. . .. but you help contribute to them being there. . . and you fail them once they are released.

  23. Nice Snow White Teacher. All the dwarves will whistle off into the mines digging for coal, goal, and heavy metals and whistle dixie while the work. HI HO!

  24. KIinder, gentler, Machine Gun delivery of topics that require more inquiry into than a slick 10 minute corporate, state, and religious hegemonic propaganda presentation will allow.

  25. I think deviance is the societal equivalent of biological mutations. They allow societies to change and respond to different stimuli. Sometimes they can be harmful though.

  26. My God… she is a freaking smoke show! I would have been watching this course just for her if I had not been interested in Sociology

  27. There is an interesting theory, called 'a theory of delinquent cultures' (Sellin, Miller, Sutherland). It says that deviance is mainly caused by being influenced by a group that has deviant norms.

    Also it would be nice to notice Durkheim's explanation of deviance as a result of anomie.

  28. Why U dnt say that Communists are deviant in a Capitalist society! That Communists are oppressed not cause they are bad, but cause they threat wealth and power of capitalist scums.

  29. I think a problem with sociological analyses of "deviance" is that it lumps different phenomena together. A criminal–someone who violates basic norms of behavior in all cultures–is a very different animal from someone like a vegan, who obeys the norms of a subculture. Someone who struggles to right their culture's injustices is yet a third kind of person. I'm told people fall into "lumpers" and "splitters" when thinking about problems, and normally I'm a lumper–but the sociological subject of deviance cries out for parsing the phenomena.

  30. Structuralist believes deviant serves a function and it is true, yet it does not explain why such things occur in the first place.
    Interactionist thinks deviant actions are nurtured and it is also true. A person's upbringing also dictates his/her behavior. However, the theory still does not explain why deviance, or rather, things that we think are deviant, occurs in the first place.
    Conflict theory, for me, is the only theory that explain why such things occur in the first place. People label other people as a deviance for a really simple reason — self-interest.

  31. I have always gone against social norms and I'm not really sure why. I never went to college, I have a self employed job cleaning houses, female living by myself, I don't ever want kids. idk why I am like this I just never cared about what others want for me but doing what makes me happy

  32. I love how she points out that drug abuse is a in illness but not that being "gay" has been legitamentally proven to be a mental illness lol 😂

  33. What about " Relative deviance"? By that I mean a person changes habits, personality, behaviour depending on micro-social surroundings that again, are the same person`s choice to conform to what is perceived as acceptable by certain group of people.

    That would mean that deviance in its moderate state does not really exist. However, extremes, positive and negative, especially negative do exist. Positive deviance is something every human being is taught to strive for while on the other hand negative deviance is something every human being is taught to frown upon, to avoid any action that resembles negative deviance and to stay away from negatively deviant people. There is also a reward system reserved for extremely positive deviance in forms of awe, praises, glory, while on the other hand negative deviance is punished according to the rules of social control. Minor deviance, a non threatening one in any way is "punished" by ridiculing in full capacity", moderate negative deviance is punished by social exclusion, also in full capacity, while extremely negative deviance is punished by prison sentencing depending on a crime a person has committed.

    Which deviance extreme is more powerful then? Positive or negative? My theory is that it depends on two components, the deviant himself, his/her psychological health to begin with and the social control to use influence of the masses both on micro and macro-social level to help "guide" the result of the deviance towards extremely positive outcome, which then, hopefully, in whatever way benefit the largest macro-social construct, the civilisation itself.

  34. I wish you were my sociology lecturer! Mine is a total bore… he doesn't explain anything well. He just goes on about his extreme left wing views on everything which he doesn't like being challenged on! I am really struggling with sociology, will be glad when it's over.

  35. It doesn’t matter how dirt poor or homeless you are, what makes this country unique is it’s ability to allow opportunity for people in all walks of life to increase their wealth financially. Most of our ancestors came with little to nothing here. If they can do it, so can we. Look for a good full time work, graduate high school, avoid a marriage out of wedlock, ask for help, get educated on finances, get to know people in a job area. Fight by the skin of your teeth. Its not the governments job to poorly redistribute money; It’s up to all of us to look out for our wellbeings, and it does help for us to be charitable to others while doing it.
    God bless and go in peace.

  36. Does Durkheim’s deviant theory and strain theory work with Schellinger’s segregation model. That is, does segregation define communities, and reduce deviance? Also, does innovation mean criminal or just not normal?

  37. Someone tell me why I can learn more from a 9minute crash course video then a two-hour college lecture hahaha. This series has been so much help! Thanks Crash Course!

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