The Handbook of Deviance is a definitive reference for professionals, researchers, and students that provides a comprehensive and engaging introduction to the sociology of deviance. * Composed of over 30 essays written by an international array of scholars and meticulously edited by one of the best known authorities on the study of deviance * Features chapters on cutting-edge topics, such as terrorism and environmental degradation as forms of deviance * Each chapter includes a critical review of what is known about the topic, the current status of the topic, and insights about the future of the topic * Covers recent theoretical innovations in the field, including the distinction between positivist and constructionist perspectives on deviance, and the incorporation of physical appearance as a form of deviance
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Part I: Deviance
1 The Sociology of Deviance
The Scope of the Sociology of Deviance
The Two Sociologies of Deviance: An Introduction
Delineating Crime from Deviance
Institutional Violence: Deviance and Harm
2 Deviance and Social Control
Social Control and Social Order
The Control of Deviance and Crime
Visions and Revisions of Social Control
The Future of Social Control
3 Regulating Vice
Why Regulate Vice?
Surveying the Range of Controls
One Guiding Principle for Vice Regulation
Robustly Regulating Casino Gambling
Vice on the Internet
4 Deviant Subcultures and Lifestyles
5 Positive Deviance
Examples of Positive Deviance and a Typology
Ideas about Positive Deviance
The Relativity and Complexity of Positive Deviance
Part II: Ongoing Deviance Dynamics
6 The Process of Deviantization
The Deviantization Process: An Introduction
Stigma Contests: The Process of Deviantization
Deviantization and Meaning-Creation
7 Changing Definitions of Deviance
Defining Deviance Up and Down
Ideology, Sociocultural Change, and Definitions of Deviance
Summary and Conclusions
8 The Medicalization of Deviance: From Badness to Sickness
Mental Disorder and Medicalization
Homosexuality, Demedicalization, and the
Biotechnology, Risk, and the Protection of Society
Thinking Deviance in the Wake of Medicalization
Drug Use, Possession, and Sale
10 What is Homosexuality Doing in Deviance?
Gays before Deviance
The Birth of Deviance
The Gay/Deviant Connection
Deviance and the Gay Rights Movement
The Gay 1990s and 2000s
Still Deviant after All These Years
Leaving Gay People Alone
Part III: Studying Deviance
11 Quantitative Methods in the Study of Deviance and Crime
The Goals of Quantitative Research in the Study of Deviance
The Advent of Quantitative Methodology in the Study of Crime and Deviance
Antecedents of Quantitative Methodology in the Deviance Literature
Contemporary Quantitative Methodology in the Study of Crime and Deviance
12 Studying Deviance
Varieties of Qualitative Methods for Studying Deviance and Deviants
Why Qualitative Methods are Desirable in the Study of Deviance
Limits on the Utility of Qualitative Data for Studying Deviance and Deviants
Ethical Issues in the Qualitative Study of Deviance and Deviants
Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) and Qualitative Studies of Deviance
13 Explanatory Paradigms in the Study of Deviance
Positivist Theories of Crime and Deviance
Theories of Individual Differences
Theories of Group Differences
Part IV: Approaches, Explanations, Factors
14 Critical Criminology
Definition of Critical Criminology
Critical Criminological Research
Critical Criminological Policy Proposals
Summary and Conclusion
15 The Interactionist Approach to Deviance
Objective vs. Subjective Views of Deviance
Symbolic Interactionism and Deviance
Interactionism and Deviant Identity Management
Interactionism and Research Methods
16 Gender and Deviance
Doing Gender Deviance? Doing Gender and Doing Heteronormativity
Western Intersectionalities: Race, Gender, and Sexuality
Breaking the Binaries through Gender Deviance
Concluding Remarks: Gender Normals?
17 Deviance and the Mass Media
Part V: Individual Deviance
18 Juvenile Delinquency
What Is Juvenile Delinquency?
The Continuing Debate over the Nature and Treatment of Juvenile Offenders
The Socially Constructed Nature of Juvenile Delinquency
How Much Delinquency is There?
Who is Most Likely to Engage in Delinquency?
What are the Causes of Delinquency?
The Control and Prevention of Delinquency
19 Alcohol Use as Deviance
The Socio-historical Context
Major Conceptual Categories of Deviant Drinking
Emergence of Deviant Drinking
Drinking and Driving
Overnight Deviance: The Underage Drinker
A Moral Crusade: Binge Drinking
20 Drug Use as Deviance
Risks of Psychoactive Drugs
Classes of Psychoactive Drugs
Policy Designed to Regulate Psychoactive Drug Use
21 Sociology and Sexual Deviance
The Heteronormative Paradigm
The Sexualization of Culture
Moral Panics and Sex Panics
Variations and Illustrations
22 Cognitive Deviance
Defining Cognitive Deviance
Explaining Deviant Beliefs
Illustrating Cognitive Deviance: Two Examples
23 Abominations of the Body
Abominations of the Body
Conformity to and Violations of Aesthetic Standards
Extreme Body Modification as Physical Deviance
Part VI: Institutional Deviance
24 Mental Illness as a Form of Deviance
Mental Illness as a Social Role
Mental Illness and Stigma
Expansion of Mental Illness
25 Poverty and Disrepute
Poverty and Disrepute as Process
The Ideological Construction of Disrepute
The Historical Evolution of Ideological Space
The Stranger and the Vanquished
26 Environmental Harm as Deviance and Crime
Illegal Environmental Harm
Legal Environmental Harms that are Ecologically Deviant
The Impact of Legal and Illegal Environmental Harm on Other Deviance
Deviant, but Environmentally Beneficial Activities
Conclusion and Future Directions
27 Organizational Deviance
The State of Workplace Deviance Research
Organizational Deviance Research at a Crossroads
28 Marginalizing Migrants
Deviant States and Global Migration Policing
The Migration Policing Web
Detention and Deportation
29 Political Deviance
Crossing the Moral Boundaries
The Movement of Moral Boundaries
A Political Deviance Approach
30 Terrorism and Counterterrorism
Reconciling Actions and Claims
Part VII: Deviance Futures
31 Deviance and Social Change
Political Deviance vs. Political Justice
Criminals as Heroes and Political Criminals
32 What’s in Store for the Concept of Deviance?
Is Deviance Dead?
The Decline of the Sociology of Deviance?
Has the Sociology of Deviance Declined in Intellectual Vitality?
Obliteration by Incorporation
Whither the Sociology of Deviance? Sixteen Predictions
End User License Agreement
Figure 5.1 Deviance typology. From Heckert and Heckert (2002).
Figure 16.1 The relationships between heterosexuality, gender identity, genitalia and heteronormativity.
Figure 16.2 University of Memphis Cheerleaders performing a co-ed double cupie. (John Harrison). By Johnharrison1995 (Own work) (CC BY 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons.
Figure 16.3 Multiple conceptualizations of sexual identity, gender performance, gender identity, and sex identity. (Used with permission from Kasey Catlett, Jack Cox, and Brenton Wimmer).
Figure 16.4 Lorella Sukkiarini, an Italian drag queen, preparing stage makeup. (Dedda71/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-3.0). “Lorellasukkiarini” by Dedda71 – own work. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lorellasukkiarini.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Lorellasukkiarini.jpg
Figure 20.1 Annual reported drug use by 12th Graders, 1975–2013.
Figure 20.2 Top four drugs involved in the US: unintentional drug overdose deaths, 1999–2010.
Figure 20.3 US drug arrest rate per 100,000 by race, 1980–2007.
Table of Contents
Series Editor: Charles F. Wellford, University of Maryland College Park.
The handbooks in this series will be comprehensive, academic reference works on leading topics in criminology and criminal justice.
The Handbook of Law and SocietyEdited by Austin Sarat and Patricia Ewick
The Handbook of Juvenile Delinquency and Juvenile JusticeEdited by Marvin D. Krohn and Jodi Lane
The Handbook of GangsEdited by Scott H. Decker and David C. Pyrooz
The Handbook of DevianceEdited by Erich Goode
The Handbook of Criminological TheoryEdited by Alex R. Piquero
The Handbook of Drugs and SocietyEdited by Henry H. Brownstein
This edition first published 2015© 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. except Chapter 25 © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. and Chapter 23© 2015 Pearson Education, Inc.
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Cover image: Kasimir Malevich, The Knife Grinder or Principle of Glittering, 1912–13, oil on canvas (detail). Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of Collection Société Anonyme, 1941.553
Jeff Ackerman is Senior Lecturer in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University, Queensland, Australia. He is conducting cross-cultural (United States versus Australia) partner violence research, and research on juvenile delinquency and life course criminology. He received his PhD from Pennsylvania State University and has previously taught at Texas A&M University. His work has been published in academic journals such as Criminology, Journal of Marriage and the Family, and Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
Robert Agnew is Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Sociology at Emory University. His research focuses on the causes of crime and delinquency, particularly his general strain theory of delinquency. Recent works include Pressured into Crime (2006), A General Theory of Crime and Delinquency (2006), and Toward a Unified Criminology (2011).
Scott Akins is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Oregon State University. His research interests include drug use, drug policy, and structural criminology. With Clay Mosher, he is author of Drugs and Social Policy: The Control of Consciousness Alteration (2nd ed., 2014).
David L. Altheide is Emeritus Professor on the faculty of Justice and Social Inquiry in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University, where he taught for 37 years. His work has focused on the role of mass media and information technology in social control. The most recent of his 15 books are Media Edge: Media Logic and Social Reality (forthcoming), Qualitative Media Analysis (2nd ed., 2012), and Terror Post 9/11 (2009). The Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction has given him the Cooley Award, which is given to the outstanding book in symbolic interaction, three times, in 1986, 2004, and 2007; the Herbert Mead Award, for lifetime achievement, in 2005; and the Mentor Achievement Award in 2007. In 2012 he was a Fulbright Specialist at Zeppelin University, Germany, and was a Distinguished Research Professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
Julia Bandini is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at Brandeis University. Her research interests include the sociology of medicine, mental health, and issues related to aging, dying, and death.
Nachman Ben-Yehuda is Professor of Sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of 11 books – most recently, Atrocity, Deviance, and Submarine Warfare (2013) – the co-author of Moral Panics (2009), and the co-editor of Selective Remembrances: Archaeology in the Construction, Commemoration, and Consecration of National Pasts (2007). His Theocratic Democracy: The Social Construction of Religious and Secular Extremism (2010) won the Distinguished Book Award from the Division of International Criminology of the American Society of Criminology. He is currently conducting research on how moral panics are expressed in Israeli newspapers.
Timothy Brezina is Professor of Criminal Justice at Georgia State University. His research focuses on the causes and control of youth violence, and he is currently conducting an evaluation of an innovative mentoring program for at-risk youth. His recent articles have appeared in Criminology, Justice Quarterly, and Criminal Justice and Behavior. He is co-author, with Robert Agnew, of Juvenile Delinquency: Causes and Control (4th ed., 2011).
Avi Brisman is Assistant Professor of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University. He is co-editor, with Nigel South, of the Routledge International Handbook of Green Criminology (2013), co-editor, with Nigel South and Rob White, of Environmental Crime and Social Conflict: Contemporary and Emerging Issues (2015), and co-author, with Nigel South, of Green Cultural Criminology: Constructions of Environmental Harm, Consumerism, and Resistance to Ecocide (2014).
Melanie Bryant is an Associate Professor of Leadership and Management in the Swinburne Business School at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia. Her research interests address employee responses to organizational change and dynamics of change adoption, and her work has focused on a number of settings including operating rooms, medical practices and, more recently, food production.
Thomas C. Calhoun is Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Sociology at Jackson State University. Dr. Calhoun has published numerous articles in the area of deviance, focusing on male prostitution and amateur stripping, and he has collaborated with Alex Thio and Addrain Conyers on the volume Deviance Today (2013), which follows their highly successful Readings in Deviant Behavior (5th ed., 2008). Calhoun is President of the Association of Black Sociologists and past President of the Mid-South Sociological Association as well as the North Central Sociological Association.
Peter Conrad is the Harry Coplan Professor of Social Sciences at Brandeis University. He has published over a hundred articles and chapters in academic and scholarly journals and books, and he is the author of nine books, including The Medicalization of Society (with Joseph Schneider, 2007) and Deviance and Medicalization: From Badness to Sickness (with Joseph Schneider, 2nd ed., 1992).
Addrain Conyers is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Marist College. He received his PhD in Sociology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and his research has focused on deviant behavior and identity management. Conyers collaborated with Alex Thio and Thomas C. Calhoun on Readings in Deviant Behavior (2008) and Deviance Today (2013).
John Curra is a professor in the School of Justice Studies in the College of Justice and Society at Eastern Kentucky University, where he has taught since 1975. In 1981, he received the prestigious Excellence in Teaching Award from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. In 2005–2007, he was chosen to become a Foundation Professor, one of the highest honors a professor can receive at Eastern Kentucky University. In 2012, he received the Excellence in Teaching award, given by the Department of Criminal Justice. The latest (3rd) edition of Curra’s most recent book, The Relativity of Deviance, was released in 2014. He has authored or coauthored several other books, an instructor’s manual, and has edited a reader.
Mathieu Deflem is Professor of Sociology at the University of South Carolina. His teaching and research specialties include law, policing, terrorism, popular culture, and social theory. He has authored dozens of articles and three books, The Policing of Terrorism (2010), Sociology of Law (2008), and Policing World Society (2002), as well as edited nine volumes.
Walter S. DeKeseredy is the Anna Deane Carlson Endowed Chair of Social Science and Director of the Research Center on Violence at West Virginia University. He is the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of 19 books, including Critical Criminology (2014), Male Peer Support and Violence against Women (2013), and Violence against Women: Myths, Facts, Controversies (2011), as well as some 130 articles in research journals and books. He has won an impressive number of awards from the American Society of Criminology and several universities for his research, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the ASC.
Jeffery P. Dennis received his PhD in Sociology from Stony Brook University and is currently Assistant Professor of Corrections at Minnesota State University at Mankato. He conducts research on the intersection of crime, gender, and minority identity, and has published a score of articles on hate crimes, human trafficking, youth crime, and the media’s gender and racial stereotyping. Among his books are Queering Teen Culture (2006) and We Boys Together (2007).
Danielle Dirks is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Occidental College in Los Angeles. She conducts research and teaches courses on crime and punishment in America, race and ethnic relations, and gender and deviance, and is co-author of two books: How Ethical Systems Change: Lynching and Capital Punishment (2011) and Confronting Campus Rape (2015). Dr Dirks is currently at work on a book on punishment in the digital age.
John Dombrink is Professor of Criminology, Law, and Society at the University of California at Irvine. He is the coauthor of The Last Resort: Success and Failure in Campaigns for Casinos (1990), Dying Right: The Death with Dignity Movement (2001), Sin No More: From Abortion to Stem Cells, Understanding Crime, Law, and Morality (2007), and The Twilight of Social Conservativism (2015).
Daniel Dotter is Professor of Criminal Justice at Grambling State University. In addition to numerous articles and book chapters, he has published Creating Deviance: An Interactionist Approach (2004). Currently, he is writing a volume entitled Whispers in the Dark: Conspiracy Culture as Extreme Deviance.
Craig J. Forsyth is Professor of Sociology, and holds the Jack and Gladys Theall/BORSF Professorship in Liberal Arts, at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He received both his BA (1977) and MA (1979) from the University of New Orleans and his PhD from Louisiana State University in 1983. He is the author of over 200 journal articles and book chapters, and of The American Merchant Seaman: Struggle and Stigma (1989); co-author (with Anthony Margavio) of Caught in the Net: The Conflict Between Shrimpers and Conservationists (1996); and co-editor (with Heith Copes) of the Encyclopedia of Social Deviance (2014). His principal research interests are in the areas of deviance, crime, and delinquency.
Erich Goode is Sociology Professor Emeritus at Stony Brook University. In addition to Stony Brook, where he won several teaching awards, he has taught at New York University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the University of Maryland. He is the editor of eight anthologies and the author of 100 articles in academic and literary journals and in magazines and newspapers, dozens of volume chapters and encyclopedia entries, as well as 11 books, mainly on deviance and drug use, including Deviance in Everyday Life (2002), Justifiable Conduct (2013), Deviant Behavior (10th ed., 2015), and, with Nachman Ben-Yehuda, Moral Panics (2nd ed., 2009).
David L. Harvey is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Nevada at Reno, where he has taught since 1968. He received his doctorate from the University of Illinois and has published articles in numerous sociology journals, as well as a book on poverty in America’s heartland. He is currently conducting research on chaos theory and social systems.
Daniel Alex Heckert is Professor and Chair of the Sociology Department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Associate Director for the Mid-Atlantic Addiction Research and Training Institute (MARTI). His recent scholarship includes conceptualizing deviance and positive deviance, conducting empirical research utilizing a new typology of deviance, identifying predictors of reassault among batterers, and developing a scale to measure disability identity orientations.
Druann Maria Heckert received her degrees from Frostburg State University, the University of Delaware, and the University of New Hampshire, and is Professor of Sociology at Fayetteville (NC) State University. She has published in the areas of stigmatized physical appearance, positive deviance, deviance theory, and cultural interpretations of violence. Her articles have appeared in Deviant Behavior, The Sociological Quarterly, Symbolic Interaction, Sociological Imagination, and Free Inquiry in Creative Sociology.
Pat Lauderdale received his PhD from Stanford University in the Sociology of Law, and is a Professor of Justice at Arizona State University. He explores the thematic threads of the alternative ways in which marginalized people struggle with concepts of justice and injustice. He is the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of numerous books, including Law and Society (1983), The Struggle for Control: A Study of Law, Disputes and Deviance (1993), Lives in the Balance (1997), and A Political Analysis of Deviance, currently in its third edition (2011).
Jim Leitzel teaches public policy and economics at the University of Chicago. His research interests center on transition economics, gun control, and law and economics, and, among others books, he is the author of Russian Economic Reform (1995), Political Economy of Rule Evasion and Policy Reform (2003), Regulating Vice: Misguided Prohibitions and Realistic Controls (2008), and Concepts in Law and Economics: A Guide for the Curious (forthcoming).
Robert F. Meier is Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He is the author of over 50 articles in professional journals, and the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of 15 books, including, Crime and Society (1989), Victimless Crime? Prostitution, Drugs, Homosexuality, Abortion (1997), Criminal Justice and Moral Issues (2005), and, with Marshall B. Clinard, Sociology of Deviant Behavior, currently in its 14th edition.
Clayton J. Mosher received his PhD in sociology from the University of Toronto, and is Professor in the Department of Sociology at Washington State University in Vancouver. His research addresses issues of social inequality, with a special focus on the criminal justice system and youth populations. His most recent book (with Scott Akins) is Drugs and Social Policy: The Control of Consciousness Alteration (2nd ed., 2014).
Robin D. Perrin is Professor of Sociology at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He is the author or co-author of three books, including Social Deviance: Being, Behaving, and Branding (1994) and Family Violence Across the Lifespan (3rd ed., 2011), and numerous articles in the areas of family violence, deviance theory, the social construction of social problems, and the sociology of religion.
Paul M. Roman is Regents Professor and Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology at the University of Georgia, and Director of the Center for Behavioral Health and Human Services Delivery. He is an author or co-author of half a dozen books, including Spirits and Demons at Work: Alcohol and Other Drugs in the Job (1972), Alcohol Problems in the Workplace (1990), and Alcohol: The Development of Sociological Perspectives on Use and Abuse (1991).
Joseph Schneider has taught at several universities in China and is Ellis and Nelle Levitt Professor of Sociology at Drake University. His publications address deviance, medicalization, social problems theory, the experience of illness, caregiving in urban China, Donna Haraway, the new materialism, and the relevance of objects and embodiment to human being. He is the author of Donna Haraway: Live Theory (2005) and has coauthored, with Peter Conrad, Having Epilepsy (1983), Deviance and Medicalization (2nd ed., 1992), and The Medicalization of Society (2007).
Richard Tewksbury is Professor of Justice Administration at the University of Louisville. He holds a PhD in sociology from Ohio State University. He is editor of Criminal Justice Studies and former editor of both Justice Quarterly and the American Journal of Criminal Justice. He has published more than 300 articles and chapters, and 14 books. In addition, he has served as Research Director for the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission and is recipient of the Peter P. Lejins Correctional Research Award from the American Correctional Association.
Austin T. Turk passed away during the completion of this volume; his chapter on terrorism and counterterrorism represents his last published work. He was Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of California at Riverside; in addition, he taught at Indiana University, the University of Toronto, and the University of Natal in Durban, South Africa. His book, Criminality and the Legal Order (1969), is widely considered a classic. He is also the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of Legal Sanctioning and Social Control (1972), Political Criminality (1982), and Examining Political Violence (2013). Professor Turk was past-president of the American Society of Criminology.
Martin S. Weinberg is Professor of Sociology at Indiana University and an Affiliate at the Kinsey Institute. He has co-authored Homosexuals and the Military (1971), Male Homosexuals: Their Problems and Adaptations (1974), Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity (1978), Sexual Preference (1981), Dual Attraction: Understanding Bisexuality (1994), and Deviance: The Interactionist Perspective (9th ed., 2008). His articles have appeared in the American Sociological Review, Social Problems, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Archives of Sexual Behavior, Journal of Sex Research, Sociological Perspectives, and Sociological Forum.
Colin J. Williams is Professor of Sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis; previously he was Research Sociologist at the Institute for Sex Research. He is co-author of Homosexuals and the Military (1971), Male Homosexuals (1974), Sex and Morality in the United States (1989), and Dual Attraction (1994).
Dean Wilson is Reader in Criminal Justice at Plymouth University, UK. He has published widely in the areas of surveillance, border control, technology and security, and on the history of policing and criminal justice. He is a Director of the International Surveillance Studies Network, Associate Editor of the journal Surveillance & Society, author of The Beat: Policing a Victorian City (2006), co-author of Surveillance, Crime, and Social Control (2006), and co-editor of Surveillance: Crime and Social Control (a special issue of Theoretical Criminology, vol. 15, no. 3, August 2011).
Meredith G.F. Worthen is an Associate Professor of Sociology and elected faculty member of the Women’s and Gender Studies department at the University of Oklahoma. She is interested in the sociological constructions of deviance and stigma, adolescent sexuality, LGBTQ identities, feminist criminology, and gender differences in adolescent delinquency. Dr Worthen is the author of dozens of articles and the forthcoming book, Sexual Deviance and Society.
Sociologists have not achieved widespread consensus about what they mean by “deviance,” and to my mind this is a good thing. The diversity of sociological conceptions of deviance reflects real-world diversity; it would be misleading to proclaim consensus in the field’s subject matter where social tumult prevails. But, the naïve critic objects, don’t atomic physicists largely agree on their subject matter? The fact is that deviance is substantially different from atomic physics. It seems almost redundant to point out that some sociologists have carved out particular slices of social reality and designated those slices as deviance, and so we investigate their whys, wherefores, and whatsits – as if all of this constituted an essentialistic reality with a clear-cut, pregiven lineaments. Not all sociologists even agree on what the slices are, let alone what they are made up of. What we call “deviance” supposedly delineates how certain behaviors, beliefs, and conditions are judged or regarded by the populace at large and by agents of social control; hence, disagreement must inevitably be the coin of the realm since the public, and even rule enforcers, formal and informal, disagree about what wrongdoing is. The processes that bring this socially constructed phenomenon – deviance – into existence are themselves worth investigating, and many sociologists have undertaken this mission, as I spell out in Chapter 1. Researchers of deviance regard the very process of “carving” deviance out of the cosmos as consistutive of what sociologists do; how do sociologists come to carve it one way and not another? Is there any method to their madness? Crimes are socially and legally constructed, this is true, but certain kinds of characteristics do correlate with engaging in crime, however socially and legally constructed – especially certain kinds of crime. There is in other words, a “common core” to crime, at least what criminologists call “index crimes” and what many others call “street crime.”
But is this also true of deviance? Almost certainly not. True, all societies set rules or norms disallowing certain behaviors, and attempt to control acts deemed in violation of those norms; all societies, that is, exercise social control (Mathieu Deflem, Chapter 2: Deviance and Social Control). All societies harbor some members, “moral entrepreneurs” (Becker, 1963 , pp. 147–163), who attempt to control, ban, or reduce the occurrence of said wrongful behavior, including what many of us consider “nasty habits” or vices – smoking, prostitution, pornography, gambling, and the like. How and with what success? In Chapter 3, “Regulating Vice,” Jim Leitzel explains. The sociology of deviance is a field of study that is fragmented into not only a diversity of phenomena, but a diversity of perspectives, whose practitioners and theorists disagree about the deviance of practically everything. Everywhere and throughout history, wrongdoing is socially constructed. Likewise, everywhere, laypeople construct theories explaining why some of us stray from the norms and laws. Everywhere, youths go astray – according to the lights of the dominant social norms – but only in some places, at certain times, has youth crime been conceptualized out of the universe of wrongdoing and designated as a particular type of offense: juvenile delinquency (Timothy Brezina and Robert Agnew, Chapter 18: Juvenile Delinquency: Its Nature, Causes, and Control). Everywhere some members of society commit offenses against the religious establishment, but only at certain times and places have these offenses been regarded as serious by the majority and by the authorities. Everywhere, some members of society commit offenses against sexual rules, but what specific acts generate what sorts of punishment varies from one society to another (Martin Weinberg and Colin Williams, Chapter 21: Sociology and Sexual Deviance). What is widely regarded as a sexual offense – and when and where? Murder is condemned and punished at all times in all places, but the taking of human life is tolerated and even encouraged at certain times and places, and murder, while universally condemned, is by definition a deviant, criminal killing. The neutral term “killing” is not intrinsically deviant, and during wartime, against the enemy military, combatants are commanded to do it. Perhaps only treason stands as a universal taboo, and the reason should be obvious: no society can be expected to forge a suicide pact with its constituent members as well as any stranger who happens along. Everything may be socially constructed, but not everything is “up for grabs.” Some rules are a lot likelier than others to be enforced. And the violation of some rules is considered wrong in one collectivity but not another. Indeed, the violation of a rule may be wrong in one social social circle and praiseworthy in another. And almost everything changes. Even entire phenomena enter and leave the universe of meaningful categories, not to mention the universe of deviance – and when they leave, cease to be studied by sociologists as a form of deviance.
Half a century ago, sociologist J.L. Simmons ( 1965 ) asked a sample of respondents the question “What is deviant?” The most common response he received at that time was “homosexuals.” More contemporaneously, Henry Minton ( 2002 ) argued that homosexuality is “departing from deviance.” Even more recently still, in Chapter 10 in this volume, Jeffery Dennis (What is Homosexuality Doing in Deviance?) argues that homosexuality is not deviant at all and should be excised from the field, except as a historical relic. In 1977, the Gallup organization asked a sample of Americans, “Do you think homosexual relations should or should not be legal?” Four in ten respondents (43%) answered that they should be legal. In 2013, two-thirds of the respondents (66%) said that homosexual relations should be legal. What message should we take away from such findings? Over time, we see a huge leap up the ladder of respectability and conventionality for homosexual relations – that much is true. But still, today, a third of the respondents don’t believe sex between same-sex partners should be legal. So there is both a positive and a negative message in the polls. Still, perhaps the most astounding change in attitudes toward homosexuality has been the acceptance of gay marriage – from 27% to 55%, again according to Gallup polls. More than half the American public believes that gays should have full legal rights when it comes to marriage. And at the time of writing, 19 states of the US have legalized gay marriage, eight by court decision, eight by state legislation, and three by popular vote. Yes, times change, norms change – but at the same time, matters are not entirely different from one era to another. As Joseph Schneider says in this volume (Chapter 8: The Medicalization of Deviance: From Badness to Sickness), while the earlier psychiatric research claimed that homosexuals are sick or pathological, even today, stigma and discrimination against them has not disappeared; in other words, homosexuality has not entirely shed its deviant status. The other side of the coin is that the remaining 31 states legally ban same-sex marriage, though some of these permit civil unions. And consider the fact that while, as Jeffery Dennis says in this volume, numerous jurisdictions have decriminalized homosexual relations and legalized gay marriage, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), homosexuality is still illegal in over 80 countries around the world. Hence, asking whether homosexuality is deviant or not is a bit of a trick question since the answer depends on what we mean by “deviant.” It is in some societies, locales, communities, and jurisdictions, and among some social circles and collectivities, but not in others. And in mainstream America, homosexuality is no longer deviant in the classical sense. Here’s my speculation on the matter: The Supreme Court will eventually overturn legal bans on gay marriage, and it will be legal in all states of the US; here, homosexual relations will be considered socially wrongful or deviant among a shrinking, marginal, politically powerless, and religiously reactionary minority. Currently in American society the status of homosexuality is in a transitional phase – still deviant in very conservative, traditional, reactionary, strongly heteronormative circles, though less so over time, and normatively more or less conventional, an alternate form of sexual expression, in most others.
In any case, Jeffery Dennis’ question “What Is Homosexuality Doing in Deviance?” is not that difficult to answer: The status of homosexuality is instructive to the student and researcher of deviance in numerous ways. As David Greenberg, author of The Social Construction of Homosexuality (1988), widely considered something of a classic, said to me (private communication):
I think homosexuality is a good topic for inclusion in a deviance course to provide a focal point for a critical issue in the sociology of deviance, namely temporal change in definitions of deviance, and cross-cultural differences in definitions of deviance. (Tobacco, alcohol, and other recreational drug use, masturbation, premarital and extra-marital sex, abortion and religious heresy make additional good examples.) It is an appropriate topic for deviance. It is an appropriate focus for a discussion of social movements formed by members of stigmatized groups. What explains why some groups are able to mobilize on their own behalf and not others, and at some times and not others? What determines the strategies such groups choose? Where subjected to punitive and preventive measures, or to stigma, what forms of social organization do those who wish to participate in homosexual activity create?
As Martin Weinberg and Colin Williams say in Chapter 10, the heteronormative paradigm that has prevailed in the US since its inception is undergoing a radical transformation, and one of the ways it is changing is the virtual collapse of homosexuality as a form of deviance. In the past men were arrested, imprisoned, and even executed, for “sodomy,” a code word for homosexual behavior; today, in the Western world, it is neither a crime nor the aberrant or wrongful act it once was. And yet – and this is a big “yet” – examining homosexuality as deviance is instructive in that it may be paradigmatic as regards how and why an activity or status loses its deviant status. In contrast, why have some behaviors (adultery, pederasty) remained deviant? Why have certain conventional behaviors (smoking, drunk driving) become more unacceptable and non-normative, even sanctionable? And why is homosexuality not entirely free of stigma everywhere, among all social collectivities? Fundamentalist and evangelical Christians still condemn it. Conservatives complain that the “deviants” of the past are being “repackaged” as the “victims” of the present day (Hendershott, 2002 , p. 97). The religious right excoriates the excesses of flamboyant and militant gays and claims to welcome moderate and mainstream homosexuals into their ranks – but is this exercise simply a way of denouncing homosexuality per se rather than singling out those who are more extreme?
Moreover, not only is deviance a continuum – from “high consensus” deviance (rape, murder, robbery) to “low consensus” deviance (stealing a newspaper, smoking marijuana, getting drunk at a party) – and not only does censure vary from one social circle to another, but homosexuality itself is a continuum with respect to degrees of deviance. In the past generation, the abbreviation LGBT (sometimes rendered LGBTQ) has come into being; it gained acceptance so quickly that, in many circles, hardly anyone has to explain what it means. It refers to the variant sexuality or homosexuality cluster: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual (plus “Queer,” though the “Q” sometimes means “Questioning”). The term refers to persons who are non-heteronormative or “non-cisgendered” (disagreement between one’s biology and genetics and one’s sex role), and reflects humanity’s capacity for gender and sexual diversity. Political activists frequently use LGBT to rally all these factions in the fight for political equality. But not all gays conceptualize intersex persons as belonging to the homosexual continuum, and some lesbian separatists do not want to be lumped in the same category as men. In any case, with respect to their deviant status, not all homosexuals are treated equally. Each category of the sexual diversity spectrum is reacted to differently by sexually conventional audiences, and within each category, degree of conventionality varies in individual cases. Nonetheless, to the extent that lesbians and gay men depart from the stereotypical sexual role of femininity and masculinity, she or he will tend to attract negative reactions from some heteronormatively conventional audiences. Hence it is misleading to refer to homosexuality as completely non-deviant.
At the end of the day, what remains? What should be included within the macrocosm of our subject of study? Deviance is behavior, beliefs, or characteristics that are disvalued by relevant social collectivities. As a result, persons who engage in, believe, or possess them often develop their own norms, values, subcultures, and lifestyles, in part as a result of reactions to that disvaluation. In Chapter 4, Craig Forsyth (Deviant Subcultures and Lifestyles) describes and analyzes subcultures and lifestyles of four deviant collectivities – cockfighting enterprises, two forms of sex work (female prostitution and stripping), and homosexuality; Forsyth agrees with Minton that, of the four, homosexuality is exiting most from deviance, while for the other three, far less so.
Sociologists of deviance disagree as to whether and to what extent positive deviance exists (Ben-Yehuda, 1990 ; Goode, 1991 ; Heckert, 1989 ; Sagarin, 1985 ). In Chapter 5, “Positive Deviance,” Druann Maria Heckert and Daniel Alex Heckert build a case for its existence and conceptual viability and vitability. Yes, there is such a phenomenon as being “too good” to be regarded as truly good, according to those persons who don’t quite measure up. Are Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Jesus, George Washington, and Mohandas Gandhi deviants? Well, they are positive deviants. Overconformity. Making the mid-level achievers look bad. The straight-A student. The worker who shows up at the office every day, every day, exactly on time. The worker who does his or her job just a bit too well to make merely competent workers feel they have to step up their game. Of course, that’s a form of deviance. But is it positive deviance? The Heckerts argue that it is. Yes, unconventional innovations that catch on and are later recognized as useful and come to represent the norm are deviant at one time and normative later on. A case of positive deviance? Behavior that violates norms in one locale or social circle may be accepted elsewhere – again, is it positive deviance? Parties and persons that are “off the charts” – heroes, extremely beautiful women, female weightlifters and bodybuilders? Talented musicians. Star athletes. Movie stars. Statistically unusual, yes – but deviant? Again, the Heckerts argue that they fit the conceptual model. What about criminal and deviant actors who are reviled, feared, and imprisoned at one time, and lionized or mythologized decades later? Bandits and brigands, bank robbers, thieves and cat burglars. Frank and Jesse James, Billy the Kid, John Dillinger, Butch Cassidy, Bonnie and Clyde. Yes, they, too, as our explicators interpret the matter, exemplify the positive deviant. What about the ex-deviant—the wrongdoer who goes straight and advertises the error of his ways? He, too, is a positive deviant. Are all these behaviors and characters examples of positive deviance? The Heckerts make an insistent case that they are. Deviance researchers who base their definition strictly on negative reactions regard all these cases as a mixed bag and see conceptual confusion rather than consistency or theoretical utility.
Not all current putative wrongdoing was always considered wrong. In many societies, social circles, collectivities, times and places, certain actions, beliefs, and characteristcs come to be regarded as wrongful. How does this process take place? What does the process of deviantization look like? In Chapter 6, “The Process of Deviantization,” Daniel Dotter explains. Definitions of deviance change; what was immoral may come to be regarded as acceptable, and vice versa. This process works for both formal and informal social control; that is, what were once crimes, states have decriminalized – witness abortion, gambling, homosexual relations, and recently marijuana possession and sale (John Dombrink, Chapter 9: Decriminalization). Until 1967, in some states, interracial marriage was against the law; then it became legal. In Chapter 7, “Changing Definitions of Deviance,” John Curra lays the foundation of what deviance is all about, then surveys the process of defining deviance “up” and “down” over time, again detailing the huge decline in the deviant status of homosexuality. Over time, certain conditions that once were regarded as manifestations of “badness” and immorality came to be seen as signs of mental disorder: hyperkinesis; schizophrenia; autism; Tourette’s syndrome. In other words, what was originally regarded as deviant behavior became medicalized. And ways of conceptualizing and treating mental aberrations brought them under entirely different regimens of control – from the hangman’s noose and the prison cell to the psychiatrist’s couch, the licensed and certified professional’s office. Sexually immoral actions may come to be seen as treatable conditions. And some once-supposed mental disorders escaped from deviance altogether, and may be regarded as both morally neutral, optional, and free of all mental pathology – again, to highlight our deviance-shedding star of the show, witness the deletion of homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in 1973. And drugs replaced the talking cure, further legitimating the professionalization of addressing troublesome behavior. These issues are addressed by Joseph Schneider in Chapter 8 (The Medicalization of Deviance: From Badness to Sickness), and Peter Conrad and Julia Bandini, in Chapter 24 (Mental Illness as a Form of Deviance: Historical Notes and Contemporary Directions).
Deviance is made up of one or more designated spheres of behavior or belief systems or conditions, as well as a topic or subject to be investigated. How do sociologists study deviance? Perhaps the most informative way of cutting the methodological pie is to divide research techniques into quantitative (Jeff Ackerman, Chapter 11: Quantitative Methods in the Study of Deviance) and qualitative (Richard Tewksbury, Chapter 12: Studying Deviance: Qualitative Methods). Can we theorize about deviance? Sociological explanations of deviance are largely confined to behavior (as opposed to beliefs and/or conditions); all of the classic sociological theories of deviance confine themselves, understandably, to types of action. Robert Meier, in Chapter 13 “Explanatory Paradigms in the Study of Deviance,” elaborates these theoretical models.
At the same time, some researchers have found the critical, Marxist, or radical approach to the study of deviance and crime fruitful, as Walter DeKeseredy explains (Chapter 14: Critical Criminology), while still others find insight in the symbolic interactionist perspective, as Addrain Conyers and Thomas Calhoun elucidate in Chapter 15, “The Interactionist Approach to Deviance.” Do theories pivot on fundamental and basic social characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, and gender? Power is distributed in such a way that the definitions of right and wrong held and administered by superordinates exerts vastly more sway over subordinates than the other way around. Does this apply to a relatively low-deviance sector of the population – girls and women? Or do females attract deviant labels that apply to them specifically? Is being female itself a form of deviance, as some have argued (Schur, 1984 )? In Chapter 16, “Gender and Deviance,” Meredith Worthen and Danielle Dirks offer their insight on the matter. In another social sphere, the deviant is dramatized in the pages of newspapers and broadcast news (David Altheide, Chapter 17: Deviance and the Mass Media). Likewise, the drama of deviance in the media is worth knowing about.
Deviance plays out at both the micro- and the macro-level. With the society and social collectivities as backdrops and background, individuals enact behavior, hold beliefs, or possess traits that are likely to attract censure, social isolation, or punishment; here we have the delinquent (Timothy Brezina and Robert Agnew, Chapter 18: Juvenile Delinquency: Its Nature, Causes, and Control), the drug abuser (Scott Akins and Clayton Mosher, Chapter 20: Drug Use as Deviance), the alcohol abuser (Paul Roman, Chapter 19: Alcohol Use as Deviance), the sexual deviant (Martin Weinberg and Colin Williams, Chapter 21: Sociology and Sexual Deviance), the person who holds unconventional beliefs (Robin Perrin, Chapter 22: Cognitive Deviance: Unconventional Beliefs), and the person who, according to some or most audiences, possesses one or more “Abominations of the Body”: that is, some form of physical deviance (Goode, Chapter 23).
At the macro- or meso-level, however, actors form part of larger structures that function as an entity, as if they were an individual, a person; indeed, in such institutions, individuals act on behalf of the larger entity. An economy is incapable of providing sufficient jobs for the workforce as a whole, and the poor, the poverty-stricken, the unemployed are stigmatized as a consequence (David Harvey, Chapter 25: Poverty and Disrepute). Corporations dump pollution into the atmosphere, the water supply, the ground, and the rest of us suffer as a consequence (Avi Brisman, Chapter 26: Environmental Harm as Deviance and Crime). Managers within corporations make decisions about cutting corners, bending and breaking laws, violating statutes that the rest of us may not even understand – and may or may not be brought into court as a collective by the authorities for their actions (Melanie Bryant, Chapter 27: Organizational Deviance: Where Have We Been, and Where Are We Going?). First World nations attempt to stem the tide of massive immigration to their shores from poor, Third World nations, and officials in the former find themselves seeking out and deporting – in a word, stigmatizing – persons who have fled poverty or persecution they are unable to deal with in their home country (Dean Wilson, Chapter 28: Marginalizing Migrants: Stigma, Racism, and Vulnerability). Political deviance is perpetrated by persons in power, by claimants to power, by agents who seek to effect political change, and those who advocate politically subversive causes, those who act both on behalf of the state and in opposition to the state: in any case, persons who represent entities substantially larger than themselves, as Pat Lauderdale explains, in Chapter 29 (Political Deviance). Finally, we have the terrorist and organized efforts to combat terrorism (Austin T. Turk, Chapter 30: Terrorism and Counterterrorism), perhaps the ultimate actors who engage in behavioral entities substantially larger than themselves. Any discussion of terrorism and counterterrorism underscores the inherently political nature of any investigation of deviance. Who decides what’s wrong? Who has the power to designate one objectively harmful action as deviant, the enactors of which deserve the harshest possible punishment, as opposed to an equally harmful action taken in retaliation for the first, which we must regard in positive terms – necessary under the circumstances? And what audiences do we look to for one judgment or the other? What the sociologist regards as deviant is not written in stone, not a hegemonic text that every reader interprets in the same way, but a fleeting, protean, adaptable, and yet in many contexts durable set of actions whose understanding of it is variable according to the audiences who view it. When these variable meanings are set into motion as responses to specific actions, they are often powerful in their impact – and hence very real – but their reality depends on interpretations which may seem will o’ the wisp to the outsider observer. Some critics of the field complain that deviance analysts tend to focus on the individual as the unit of analysis, but this section on institutional deviance demonstrates that large-scale, macro or meso institutions can and do define wrongness and punish putative miscreants, and their actions can affect larger units as well. In fact, we can regard entire nations as deviant: rogue states, pariah nations, countries that other countries boycott, isolate, freeze out of diplomatic and even trading relations because their leaders have engaged in actions (human rights abuses, the sponsorship of terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destructions) of which others disapprove. North Korea and Sudan are extreme examples of rogue nations. Some observers have even labeled the US as a “rogue state” (Blum, 2005; Isquith, 2011 ) because of its tendency to bully smaller, weaker societies in the pursuit of its interests, whatever the consequences.
The social world is in ceaseless flux, constantly changing. Deviance changes, conditions for committing deviance change, theories and explanations of deviance change, topics float in and out of deviance curricula, and as Nachman Ben-Yehuda points out (Chapter 31: Deviance and Social Change), deviance can transform society at large. In conclusion, to repeat the question originally raised by Joel Best ( 2006 , p. 543) – as much a challenge as a reproach for a field of study that has weathered something of a barrage of skepticism and criticism in recent decades – I ask, “What’s in Store for the Concept of Deviance?” (Chapter 32). Everyone who contributed a chapter to this volume attempts an answer to this formidable question. What indeed? Each chapter in this Handbook stands more or less on its own ground; I have not attempted to reconcile the authors’ diverse positions with one another, nor, for the most part – with a very few exceptions – criticize any assertions by authors with which I disagree. I’ve given every chapter enough room to breathe. After all, my position as editor of this volume is entirely befitting its unconventional subject matter.
Becker, H.S. (1963).
Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance
. New York: Free Press.
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