We define deviance as "any behavior, belief, or condition that violates significant social norms in the society or group in which it occurs" (Kendall 175). In this essay I will discuss the three social foundations of deviance as well as the three sociological perspectives on deviance. .
The first social foundation of deviance is that they only exist in relation to cultural norms. Nothing you say, do, or think is actually deviant. As society and culture changes around us so does what is considered deviance. For example: tattoos and piercings are normal now but couple of years ago that was considered deviant behavior.
The Functionalist Perspective: According to Emile Durkheim deviance is an integral part of all societies and it serves four major functions. 1. Affirming cultural values and norms, 2. Clarifying moral boundaries, 3. Promoting social unity, and 4. Encouraging social change. .
Robert Merton developed the strain theory. Strain theory is the "proposition that people feel strain when they are exposed to cultural goals that they are unable to obtain because they do not have access to culturally approved means of achieving those goals" (Kendall 179). There are five modes of adaptation in strain theory. These are: Conformity, Innovation, Ritualism, Retreatism, and Rebellion. Except for conformity these behaviors are classified as deviant.
The second social foundation of deviance is that people become deviant as other people define them that way. For example: someone shoplifts and is caught; now they are Labeled a thief. This person is more likely to go out and shoplift again now that people have Labeled them a thief. .
The Interactionist Perspective: The Labeling Theory is "the proposition that deviants are those people who have been successfully labeled as such by others" (Kendall183). Edward Lemert observed how labeling affects peoples subsequent behaviors. Primary and secondary deviances are the two parts to this.