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Lecture 7 Deviance and Social Control

♦ How does a society bring about acceptance of social norms?

♦ How does obedience differ from conformity?

♦ How do sociologists view the creation of laws?

♦ Can we learn deviant behavior from others?

♦ Why is certain behavior evaluated as deviant while other behavior is not?

♦ Should gambling, prostitution, public drunkenness, and use of marijuana be viewed as "victimless crimes"?

♦ What are the distinctive features of violent crime in the Soviet Union?

♦ Is the death penalty appropriate in American society?

Sporting collar-length hair and a long, drooping mustache, 6-foot 8-inch Darryl Saulsberry, a center for the University of Arkansas basketball team, fouled out of three consecutive games. As a result, Saulsberry de­cided to trim his hair and shave his mustache be­fore the team's next game against Baylor.

Saulsberry was called for only two fouls against Baylor. Two nights later, against Texas Tech, he played 40 minutes and was still on the court at the end of a 93-91 double-overtime victory that knocked Tech out of the Southwest Conference lead. Was it the haircut and the shave that kept him in the games longer? "I think they helped," Saulsberry concedes. "I hate to say it, but I guess the hair did affect the refs" (Sports Illustrated, 1976).

People maintain distinctive standards regard­ing the proper appearance of physicians, military officers, members of the clergy, and even college basketball players. As we will see in this chapter, conformity, obedience, and deviance can be un­derstood only within a given social context. If people disrobe publicly, they are violating widely held social norms. However, if the same people disrobe within a "naturist" (or nudist) camp, they are obeying the rules and conforming to the be­havior of peers. Clearly, then, what is deviant in one setting may be normal in another.

Conformity and deviance are two responses to real or imagined pressures from others. Ameri­cans are socialized to have mixed feelings about both conforming and nonconforming behavior. The term conformity can conjure up images of mindless imitation of one's peer group—whether a circle of teenagers wearing punk rock garb or a group of business people dressed in similar gray suits. Yet the same term can also suggest that an individual is cooperative or a "team player." What about those who do not conform? They may be respected as individualists, leaders, or creative thinkers who break new ground. Or they may be labeled as "troublemakers" and "weirdo’s" (Aronson, 1972:14-15).

This chapter will examine the relationship be­tween conformity, deviance, and social control. It begins by distinguishing between conformity and obedience and then looks at two famous experi­ments regarding conforming behavior and obedi­ence to authority. The informal and formal mechanisms used by societies to encourage conformity and discourage deviance are analyzed. Particular attention is given to the legal order and how it reflects underlying social values.

The second part of the chapter focuses on the­oretical explanations for deviance, including the functionalist approaches employed by Emile Durkheim and Robert Merton, the interactionist-based differential association theory of Edwin Sutherland, and labeling theory, which draws upon both the interactionist and the conflict per­spectives.

The third part of the chapter focuses on crime. As a form of deviance subject to official, written norms, crime has been a special concern of poli­cymakers and the public in general. Various types of crime found in the United States, and the ways in which crime is measured, will be surveyed.

The social policy section at the end of the chap­ter considers a controversy highly influenced by people's perceptions of crime: the debate over capital punishment.

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