Some Thoughts on Deviance

There are many theories on deviance that resonate with me. They all did what I thought was an adequate job of explaining many of the phenomenon that I have personally observed in my life, especially coming from a lower-middle class background. The two main theories I liked were the Social Structure and Anomie Theory and the Feminist Theory.

            The reason why I liked the social structure and Anomie theory is because I personally believe that what we identify as street crime is more tied to poverty and low income than it is to race and personal disposition. We all have an understanding of what the ideal of the American dream entails. We also understand that due to inequalities such as racism and sexism that the opportunity to achieve the American dream is not available to everyone equally. Merton asserted as much in his essay when he identified the two elements of his theory. The first he says “ consists of culturally defined goals, purpose, and interests held out as legitimate objectives for all…”(Adler, Adler. 2012.) and the second he declares that “the second element defines, regulates and controls the acceptable modes of reaching out for these goals.” (Adler, Adler, 2016). So a concrete example would involve poor Black, inner city kids subject to inadequate school funding and resources, differently treated by law enforcement, and socially viewed as inherently dangerous and criminal, would find it extremely difficult to follow the path to success that a well to do White child might. Because so much of American culture emphasizes material gain as a status symbol of success, absent a legitimate way of obtaining that I believe will entice people to find ulterior means. Those ulterior means are usually define as criminal behavior.

            The  feminist theory rings true to me also because I  understand that American culture is dominated by White, Male Hegemony. This white patriarchy also seeks to control the sexual behavior and actions of women. Much like the preceding essay Chesney-Lind notes that individuals are stratified in our social order. Specifically as it relates to women she asserts “ that gender stratification in patriarchal society is as powerful a system as is class.” (Adler, Adler, 2016). She details the particular challenges that women and girls face that men and boys don’t(especially in sexual abuse cases), and that there coping mechanism are often criminalized. I remember once reading about how young underage prostitutes were often getting more time than the men that were actually pimping then out. 

            The theories that did not I did not agree with were the ones that tried to link body somatic types and IQ to deviance. Despite the fact that crime and deviance is committed by all types of people, theories like these are personally offensive to me because they often serve as vehicles  for racists ideology cloaked in the language of science. Saying that certain “types” of people tend to commit is just a step towards intimating that perhaps Black people and other minorities are naturally more criminally inclined than others. 

                                                Adler, P. & Adler, P. (2016) Constructions of Deviance Social Power, Context, and Interaction 8th Edition. Cengage Learning.

 

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