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Deviance, Moral Boundaries and

Pat Lauderdale

Subject Sociology » Deviance and Social Control

Key-Topics morality

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Through a variety of social mechanisms, most human diversity is categorized as normal variation and a varying fraction as deviance. This area of research asks how the moral boundaries of these categories are drawn, i.e., normal versus deviant, and what determines the placement of specific actors and acts within the categories ( Lauderdale 1976 ; Ben-Yehuda 1985 ). The sociologist, therefore, can examine how certain actions are defined as deviant from specific social reactions and the creation of moral boundaries that separate the varying definitions of normal from deviant ones. The creation of the boundaries and the placement of individuals as either normal or deviant are viewed as basic processes of social definition that often are found to be outcomes of political variables. Extending the seminal work of Émile Durkheim, this line of research is contrary to the conventional view of deviance as social pathology that must be normalized or eradicated. Durkheim suggested the relevance of the relationship between political power and deviance in his analysis of sanctioning, in which he posited that increases in the consolidation of power in society will lead to proportional increases in the repressive sanctioning of people who are defined as the most deviant (i.e., criminal). Deviance is studied as a normal phenomenon, which under certain conditions can play a part in facilitating social ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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