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Society: The Basics, Eleventh Edition, by John J. Macionis. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright ? 2011 by Pearson Education, Inc.


ISBN 1-256-36957-8



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ISBN 1-256-36957-8

Society: The Basics, Eleventh Edition, by John J. Macionis. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright ? 2011 by Pearson Education, Inc.



This chapter investigates how society encourages both conformity and deviance,


Chapter Overview


and it also provides an introduction to crime and the criminal justice system.



?I was like the guy lost in another dimension, a stranger in town, not knowing

which way to go.? With these words, Bruce Glover recalls the day he returned to his hometown of

Detroit, Michigan, after being away for twenty-six years?a long stretch in a state prison. Now fifty-six years

of age, Glover was a young man of thirty when he was arrested for running a call girl ring. Found guilty at

trial, he was given a stiff jail sentence.


?My mother passed while I was gone,? Glover continues, shaking his head. ?I lost everything.? On the

day he walked out of prison, he realized just how true that statement was. He had nowhere to go and no

way to get there. He had no valid identification, which he would need to find a place to live and a job. He

had no money to buy the clothes he needed to go out and start looking. He turned to a prison official and

asked for help. Only with the assistance of a state agency was he finally able to get some money and temporary

housing (C. Jones, 2007).


This chapter explores issues involving crime and criminals, asking

not only how our criminal justice system handles offenders but also

why societies develop standards of right and wrong in the first place.

As you will see, the law is simply one part of a complex system of

social control: Society teaches us all to conform, at least most of the

time, to countless rules. We begin our investigation by defining several

basic concepts.


What Is Deviance?


Deviance is the recognized violation of cultural norms. Norms guide

virtually all human activities, so the concept of deviance is quite broad.

One category of deviance is crime, the violation of a society?s formally

enacted criminal law. Even criminal deviance spans a wide range, from

minor traffic violations to prostitution, sexual assault, and murder.


Most familiar examples of nonconformity are negative instances

of rule breaking, such as stealing from a campus bookstore, assaulting

a fellow student, or driving while intoxicated. But we also define

especially righteous people?students who speak up too much in

class or people who are overly enthusiastic about the latest electronic

gadgets?as deviant, even if we give them a measure of respect. What

all deviant actions or attitudes, whether negative or positive, have in

common is some element of difference that causes us to think of

another person as an ?outsider? (H. S. Becker, 1966).


Not all deviance involves action or even choice. The very

existence of some categories of people can be troublesome to others.


To the young, elderly people may seem hopelessly ?out of touch,? and to

some whites, the mere presence of people of color may cause discomfort.

Able-bodied people often view people with disabilities as an

out-group, just as rich people may shun the poor for falling short of

their high-class standards.


Social Control


All of us are subject to social control, attempts by society to regulate

people?s thoughts and behavior. Often this process is informal, as when

parents praise or scold their children or when friends make fun of a

classmate?s choice of music. Cases of serious deviance, however, may

bring action by the criminal justice system, the organizations?police,

courts, and prison officials?that respond to alleged violations of the



How a society defines deviance, who is branded as deviant, and

what people decide to do about deviance all have to do with the way

a society is organized. Only gradually, however, have people come to

understand that the roots of deviance are deep in society, as the chapter

now explains.


The Biological Context


Chapter 3 (?Socialization: From Infancy to Old Age?) explained

that a century ago, most people understood?or more correctly,

misunderstood?human behavior to be the result of biological

instincts. Early interest in criminality therefore focused on biological


172 CHAPTER 7 Deviance


Society: The Basics, Eleventh Edition, by John J. Macionis. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright ? 2011 by Pearson Education, Inc.


ISBN 1-256-36957-8



social control attempts by society to regulate people?s thoughts and behavior


deviance the recognized violation of cultural norms



criminal justice system the organizations?police, courts, and


prison officials?that respond to alleged violations of the law


crime the violation of a society?s formally enacted criminal law



causes. In 1876, Cesare Lombroso (1835?1909), an Italian physician

who worked in prisons, theorized that criminals stand out physically,

with low foreheads, prominent jaws and cheekbones, protruding ears,

hairy bodies, and unusually long arms. All in all, Lombroso claimed

that criminals look like our apelike ancestors.


Had Lombroso looked more carefully, he would have found the

physical features he linked to criminality throughout the entire population.

We now know that no physical traits distinguish criminals

from noncriminals.


In the middle of the twentieth century, William Sheldon took

a different approach, suggesting that body structure might predict

criminality (Sheldon, Hartl, & McDermott, 1949). He cross-checked

hundreds of young men for body type and criminal history and

concluded that delinquency was most common among boys with

muscular, athletic builds. Sheldon Glueck and Eleanor Glueck (1950)

confirmed that conclusion but cautioned that a powerful build does

not necessarily cause or even predict criminality. Parents, they suggested,

tend to be somewhat distant from powerfully built sons, who

in turn grow up to show less sensitivity toward others. In a self-

fulfilling prophecy, people who expect muscular boys to be bullies

may act in ways that bring about the aggressive behavior they expect.


Today, genetics research seeks possible links between biology

and crime. In 2003, scientists at the University of Wisconsin reported

results of a twenty-five-year study of crime among 400 boys. The

researchers collected DNA samples from each boy and noted any history

of trouble with the law. The researchers concluded that genetic

factors (especially defective genes that, say, make too much of an

enzyme) together with environmental factors (especially abuse early

in life) were strong predictors of adult crime and violence. They

noted, too, that these factors together were a better predictor of crime

than either one alone (Lemonick, 2003; Pinker, 2003).



CRITICAL REVIEW Biological theories offer a limited

explanation of crime. The best guess at present is that biological

traits in combination with environmental factors explain some

serious crime. Most of the actions we define as deviant are carried

out by people who are physically quite normal.


In addition, because a biological approach looks at the individual,

it offers no insight into how some kinds of behaviors come

to be defined as deviant in the first place. Therefore, although

there is much to learn about how human biology may affect

behavior, research currently puts far greater emphasis on social



CHECK YOUR LEARNING What does biological

research add to our understanding of crime? What are the limitations

of this approach?



Deviance is always a matter of difference. Deviance emerges in everyday

life as we encounter people whose appearance or behavior differs from

what we consider ?normal.? Who is the ?deviant? in this photograph? From

whose point of view?

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