Part A:

            A sociologist’s
perspective includes a set of theoretical assumptions about human behavior and
the context of organization within a society. Sociologist’s dig deep into a person’s
history, passions, and institutions to get a better understanding of human
interaction and behavior. In order for deviance to occur, there needs to be an
active participant, the stimulus or act, and an audience. The three main
perspectives of sociology are the functional perspective, the conflict
perspective, and symbolic interactionist perspective. The functional
perspective looks at all the interconnected parts of a society that work
together to create balance and harmony within a society. This perspective also
looks at how these parts influence and are influenced by others in the society’s
system. Functionalism is a macro, or large-scaled, “perspective that examines
the creation, maintenance, and alteration of durable social practices,
institutions, and entire societies” (Colomy 36). The conflict perspective is a
contrast to the functional perspective. Conflict theory sees a society as a multitude
of different groups competing for resources and power within a society. Conflict
theory is a macro perspective. Conflict theorists reject the” functionalist
notion that societies can be accurately portrayed as problem-solving entities”
(Colomy 39). Symbolic interactionist perspective is a more pragmatical approach
that believes that humans act in response to the meanings they assign to
objects in their environment. Symbolic interactionists believe that people
assign meanings to the stimulus before they act. Human behavior is fluid, always
changing, requiring people to make adjustments and readjustments of their
interpretations. The meanings of objects are socially constructed, leaning to a
micro perspective.

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Free will, or the “classical”
school of criminology was the first academically respected theory to explain
deviant behavior or criminology (Goode 44). The free will theory argues that a
person chooses an alternative action in order to benefit them. They are looking
for pleasure; they avoid things that cause them pain. “This model, then sees
people -criminals included- as free, rational, and hedonistic” (Goode 44). The
way society deals with and punishes deviants is to create scenarios that are
more painful; an example would be incarceration. Through the years, some of
these assumptions have been shown to be false. Sometimes people are not
rational in their behavior. Routine activities theory is an example of free
will. This theory concludes that deviance will take place when three factors
are present; a motivated offender, a suitable target, and the absence of a
capable guardian. Routine activities theory focuses mainly on the opportunities
for committing crime. Determinism looks at what belief or condition is causing
the deviant behavior. The theory also looks at why certain societies or groups
of people have higher rates of deviance. Determinism is used to look at the
natural cause and effect that can be found in the material world. There is an
avoidance of anything super-natural, spiritual, or paranormal. Self-determinism
is the opposite of free will. Individuals will act independently when
committing a crime or deviant act. There will be no outside influences.

 

Part B:

Functionalism focuses on the macro
level of a society’s everyday life. The functionalist doesn’t look at one part
of an issue; it looks at the sum of the whole. The role of institutions is at
the core of a functionalist’s perspective. How the institutions function within
a society and the relationships between the different institutions. Some
examples of institutions are prisons and other government agencies, education,
financial, media, and religious. All these institutions depend on one another
to form a society. In 1895, Emile Durkheim proposed the idea that crime and
deviance was an integral, natural, and necessary part of a healthy society.
Tighter bonds were formed within community members when people banded together
through anger and frustration regarding crime and deviance. From a
functionalist perspective, the institutions that control and label deviance
receive nourishment from the offenders. These institutions perpetuate deviance
by aiding and sheltering large numbers of deviants through jails and prisons.
Social resources are available to deviants which give them some advantages over
other members of a society. However, after a deviant goes through a process of
redemption, nothing happens to cancel out the stigma that the deviant adopts. This
makes it very difficult for a person to stop the deviant behavior in the
future. Functionalists believe that deviance is required in order to be a
contrast to how normal social order is defined. You cannot not know social
norms without knowing social deviance.

Anomie or Strain Theory originated
in 1938 after Robert Merton’s article “Social Structure and Anomie”. Emile
Durkheim coined the term “anomie” defined as periods of social disruptions that
could be the cause of deviance (Goode “Positivism” 6). When times of strain
arose, people became greedy and obtained their wants through deviant acts. From
a constructionist’s perspective, when the institutions that were meant to help
and take care of a community failed, people believed that it was their right to
take what had been lost. However, great social disruption is not the only
example of Anomie Theory. Another example is when a society puts importance and
pressure for success by means of material objects. When there is a lack of
social avenues to obtain these material objects, one displays or act on deviant
behavior to secure those goals. The theory states that one must be pushed into
these behaviors. Merton created a list of different ways, legitimate and
illegitimate, that people use to obtain these goals. One way was conformity, “the conformist mode of
adaptation, accepts both cultural values of success and the institutionalized,
legitimate, or conventional means of reaching these goals (Goode “Positivism”
8). Then there is Innovation, one
accepts the goal of success; however, they illegally or illegitimately
alternate from the norm (Merton 33). Ritualism
abandons or rejects the goals of success, but follows the rules. Retreatism is a cop-out, a rejection of
the social goals and the means to obtain them. Finally, Rebellion is when the person attempts to over-throw the goals
altogether.

Social control theory looks at why
don’t people act in a deviant manner? Control theorists believe that the cause
of deviance is the lack of social control that is the source of conventional
behavior and conformity. People in a society have a stake in conformity. People
choose to conform to a society’s norms because deviating from that would cause other
members to look at them negatively. The opposite of social control theory is
social disorganization theory. Theorists found that when cities grew, there was
a decline in social harmony brought on by frequent contact with new people. The
sense of community deteriorated. People in these communities began to not care
about what others thought of them. This made it more likely for them to participate
in deviant behavior.

An example of functionalism today
is teacher strikes. Teachers commit deviance by not going to work in the classroom
and instead picket out front of their schools. This opposition creates positive
change like higher pay, equal rights, or better working environments.

Conflict theorists adhere to the
fact that conflict and strain occurs when there are unbalanced and uneven
distribution of power and resources. Conflict also arises when social status is
determined by your race, gender, economic class, and culture among others. Conflict
theory focuses on who are making the rules and why is certain behavior
outlawed? Conflict theorists reject the consensus view that laws are passed and
enforced to protect the society as a whole equally. The laws are passed to uphold
the ideology or material interests of certain groups of a society; they are not
passed to protect a society.

Moral panics are defined as a
substantial number of community members in a society that develop intense
feelings of concern over a deemed threat that turns out non-existent due to
lack of evidence. Functionalists would look at the larger institutions that are
responsible for the moral panic. One example would be the media’s attention on
the subject. There are three theories of moral panics to consider. One is a
grassroots theory, the panic originates within the general public, the concern
has always been there at a lower level. The media, politicians, action groups,
etc. stir up the concern. Another is an elite-engineered theory, small powerful
groups deliberately and consciously create a campaign to invoke fear and
concern into the general public. There is often a hidden agenda, the panic is
used to deflect another more serious issue.

Drug scares are a form of moral
panics. One example is the focus on crack cocaine in the 1980’s. “When this
scare launched, crack was unknown outside a few neighborhoods in a handful of
major cities” (Reinarman 95). Politicians began a crusade to incarcerate crack
dealers and users for “The War on Drugs”. The media and politicians linked this
new drug scare to minorities and the inner-city poor, specifically
African-Americans. Conflict theorists would look at this issue and ask why
other drugs such as opiates or methamphetamine are not looked at as equally
detrimental. They would also look at the competing and clashing groups of
people; the poor, inner-city minorities and the upper-class, white, privileged
community.

Feminist theory focuses on the discrimination,
objectification, inequality, and oppression of someone based on their gender.
When someone is excluded based on their sex or gender it is not necessarily
women; however, females make up the largest part of the feminist theory. The
feminist theory looks at the institutions and groups that foster male dominance
within a society. “Androcentrism” is the term used for male-centered biases. Some
examples are the male dominated profession of engineers. In the past, it was
very rare for a woman to pursue this career. In today’s society, more women are
achieving male dominated careers; however, women still experience male bias.

One example of conflict theory is
the current epidemic of homelessness in the United States. The wealthy, people
of power, politicians, and some in the general public view homelessness as the
problem of the individual. They fail to realize or acknowledge that
homelessness is a defect in how our society operates and prioritizes. The rich
keep getting richer and the poor poorer. Blame is never put on the institutions
that are perpetuating homelessness in America. Our society makes it very
difficult for someone to get help with housing and work due to the stigma of
homelessness. Many believe homeless people are all drug addicts and criminals.

Interactionism is based on the
principles that how a society puts meaning to aspects within our world, is
constructed by the social interaction of our daily lives within a society or
community.

The Theory of Differential
Association is a symbolic interactionist perspective that looks at why deviant
behavior and crime differ among certain groups of people. This theory believes
that criminal and deviant behavior must be learned in a face-to-face manner
through direct interaction and communication with others. The younger a person
is exposed to deviant behavior, the more likely they are to commit a deviant
act or crime. Likewise, the closer one is to someone who promotes deviance and
crime, the likelihood increases that they will also commit crime or deviant
behavior. 

 
Fine’s Labeling Theory states that the label causes the deviant
behavior. Once a person believes that they will always be a deviant, they fall
into the label and act accordingly. They develop a “what’s the use” attitude. Problems
arise when people are falsely accused of deviance. Whether they were deviant or
not, they are labeled as deviant and consequently have a hard time removing the
stigma. Labeling focuses on rule making and the reaction to such rules. The focus
is not on why someone deviates; the question becomes how and why judgements of
deviant acts come to be. What is the role of social definitions and negative
sanctions. In terms of symbolic interactionism, three premises take place: people
act on the basis of the meaning that things have for them; meanings are developed from the interactions
of others; the meanings are continually modified and adjusted through interpretation.

An example of symbolic
interactionism is how the views of visible tattoos in the workplace have
changed over the years. Ten or twenty years ago someone with tattoos would have
a difficult time finding work. Employers did not want to hire people with
tattoos because of fears that it would scare away customers. Media played a big
part in the meaning behind tattoos and what they represented. Movies and
television often portrayed people with tattoos as being deviants. People with
tattoos were looked at as biker gang members, drug addicts, and criminals. Tattoos
were common with prison inmates; people associated tattoos with incarceration. Today,
tattoos have become widely accepted in the workplace. The stigma of tattoos has
improved significantly. More and more employers are hiring workers with visible
tattoos. It is interesting that the placement of tattoos has also gone through
a process of acceptance. In the past, neck tattoos were rare and associated
with gang members or skinheads. Today, neck tattoos have become more prevalent
and accepted in our society.

 

Part C:

            A positivist’s perspective is an important tool in understanding
deviance because it measures concrete facts based on observations of objective
experiences. Nothing is not known. The natural sciences are the true sciences
that positivist rely on for evidence. Facts and statistics cannot be misunderstood
or manipulated. This approach is beneficial in studying deviant behavior because
it can be a tool to predict the prevalence and likelihood of deviant behavior in
certain situations. When you look at Goode’s article “Positivism”, he explains
that social disorganization theory states that “As a city grows, its sense of
community breaks down. And as social disorganization in a given neighborhood or
community increases, deviant behavior increases along with it” (45). When you
can measure where deviant acts are likely to occur, you can then prepare for it,
providing resources where they are needed the most. Social disorganization
occurs mostly in lower-income areas and transitional housing. With this
information, community organizations can get ahead of the problem before it
becomes a larger problem. In contrast, the constructionist’s perspective uses
the social sciences to base their findings. Constructionists believe that
reality is socially constructed, therefore it is subjective. Constructionists
are out in the field collecting data from actual people in the community. A
constructionist focuses on the meaning, interaction, and interpretation of
objects in society. This is a beneficial tool because changing a person’s
meaning of an object or situation can help to lower deviant rates within a
society or community. A constructionist can uncover biases about deviance. If
you look at Reinarman’s article “The Social Construction of an Alcohol Problem”,
a bias developed over the years regarding consuming alcohol. There was a
political agenda that evolved around alcohol. If you were to look at only the
hard facts, they didn’t add up to more drunk driving accidents.