7.1 Deviance and Control
Deviance is a violation of norms. Whether or not something is deviant depends on contextual definitions, the situation, and people’s response to the behavior. Society seeks to limit deviance through the use of sanctions that help maintain a system of social control. Deviance is often relative, and perceptions of it can change quickly and unexpectedly.
7.2 Theoretical Perspectives on Deviance and Crime
The three major sociological paradigms offer different explanations for the motivation behind deviance and crime. Functionalists point out that deviance is a social necessity since it reinforces norms by reminding people of the consequences of violating them. Violating norms can open society’s eyes to injustice in the system. Conflict theorists argue that crime stems from a system of inequality that keeps those with power at the top and those without power at the bottom. Symbolic interactionists focus attention on the socially constructed nature of the labels related to deviance. Crime and deviance are learned from the environment and enforced or discouraged by those around us.
7.3 Crime and the Law
Crime is established by legal codes and upheld by the criminal justice system. In the United States, there are three branches of the justice system: police, courts, and corrections. Although crime rates and incarceration increased throughout most of the twentieth century, they are now dropping. Despite these developments, inequitable law enformcenent is a destructive reality in American communities, and efforts are underway to improve outcomes.