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Deviance, Crime and

Erich Goode and Alex Thio

Subject Law
Sociology » Deviance and Social Control

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The study of deviance is sometimes confused with criminology, or the study of crime. Sociologists define deviance as the violation of a norm which is likely to generate a negative reaction, such as censure, condemnation, punishment, hostility, or stigma. Stigmatized persons are socially disvalued and discredited by those who accept conventional norms. Norms apply to behavior (the way one acts), physical characteristics (the way one looks), beliefs (what one believes) – indeed, to any dimension along which people can and do evaluate one another. And norms are relevant to specific contexts, whether to the society at large or to specific groups, social circles, or units within the society. Hence, a particular action may be condemned in one society but not another, one community but not another, one group but not another. Indeed, what is deviant in one collectivity may be regarded as praiseworthy in another. Sociologists always ask the question, “Deviant to whom ?” Without reference to a specific collectivity, or audience , the concept of deviance is meaningless. Hence, deviance is by its very nature relativistic , not only with respect to cross-cultural comparisons, but also when comparing one collectivity in the same society with another. All contemporary nation-states have developed a set of formally spelled-out statutes enacted by a legislature, court precedent, or decree; in ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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