Quit often in our day-to-day lives we hear the word "deviance", but never truly know the concepts behind it. It is not a complicated term although it is one with many theories behind it giving a vast variety of interpretations of just what deviance is and is not. Questions arise as to its relativity. Of course, no one can proclaim deviance is not relative, as deviance is behavior that does not follow common perceptions. An important sociological concept states that people conform, or perform to societal expectation or norms (Brown, 1965). Conformity provides order in the society. Thus, when someone is doing something that the rest of society find unacceptable, or out of the ordinary, he or she is considered deviant.
While the definition of deviance may appear obvious, this is not necessarily the case for the sociology community. The sociology of deviance contains definitions of an extensive nature, which are branched off into several perspective groups. For example, sociologist Erving Goffman applies the concept of stigma, or more commonly, labeling; stating that ones behavior and actions deemed deviant are applied by others (Turner, 1996). Howard Becker's definition seems to be commonly accepted as an adequate description of this concept, asserting that deviance is whatever a social audience reacts against or labels as deviant. However, another sociologist, Erdwin Pfuhl, believes that the label "deviant" depends on a group's notion of actions and conditions that should and should not occur. This view also suggests that labels of deviance can change within different societies and times. One might ask why there are so many interpretations of deviance. The answer is rather simple. Due to its relative nature, people will interpret activities quite differently (Clinard, 1998). For instance, within certain sub- cultural groups it is normal to smoke marijuana. Yet, to the larger society, it is considered deviant.