All of the readings assigned in this module relate to social deviance and social control, although the specific focus of each varies. The first selection is Durkheim’s seminal writing from over 100 years ago that analyzes the role of crime in healthy societies. The Chambliss article is a classic study on the impact of labeling and the concept of the self-fulling prophecy in understanding deviant behavior among two groups of male high school students. The article by Loe reflects the trend of medicalization of deviance today and explores how prescriptions drugs are becoming a normalized part of student life. The Lopez et.al. article gives an analysis of two types of harassment in the workplace and the types of social control that are used to address the deviance. The final article, by Gottschalk and Gunnesdal, considers the challenges of defining white collar crime and implications for research.
In all of these articles we learn that labeling deviant behavior and socially acceptable behavior occurs in a variety of places. It occurs at the social or cultural level by law-making bodies, and it occurs at the interpersonal level when law enforcement officers decide who will be officially handled and who will be treated as if they were conforming. Labeling can even occur on a case-by-case basis when students or business people decide whether or not cultural definitions of rule-breaking apply to a particular situation.
Obviously, some definitions of behavior carry more weight, such as laws being more powerful than our personal definitions of behavior as deviant or acceptable. A theme that runs through all of these articles is the fact that virtually nothing in this world is inherently deviant (two acts come close to being inherently deviant; all cultures have an incest taboo and no culture condones cold-blooded murder). Rather, deviance is deviance because we say it is at a particular place and time.
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