Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What is Deviance?

For sociologists, the term deviance does not mean perversion or depravity. Deviance is behaviour that violates the standards of conduct or expectations of a group or society. In Pakistan, alcoholics, gamblers, rapists, and atheists would all be regarded as deviants. Being late for class is categorized as a deviant act; the same is true of dressing too casually for a formal wedding. On the basis of the sociological definition, we are all deviants from time to time. Each of us violates common social norms in certain situations.
Deviance involves the violation of group norms that may or may not be formalized into law. It is comprehensive concept that includes not only criminal behaviour but also many actions not subject to persecution. The public official who takes a bribe has defied social norms, but so has the college student who refuses to sit in an assigned seat or cuts class. Of course, deviation from norms is not always negative, let alone criminal. A member of the police force who exposes corruption and brutality present within the force is deviating forms the norms of the force.
As we noted earlier, deviance can be understood only within its social context. A nude photograph of a man or woman may be perfectly appropriate in a medical college but would be regarded as completely out of place in an elementary school classroom.


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