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Social Sci LibreTexts

5: Deviance, Crime, and Social Control

  • Page ID
    2038
  • [ "article:topic-guide", "license:ccbyncsa" ]

    A central message of this book so far is that society is possible because people conform to its norms, values, and roles. People often violate their society’s norms and are sometimes punished for doing so. Why do they commit deviance and crime? What influences their chances of being punished? How do behaviors come to be defined as deviant or criminal? Recalling this book’s emphasis on changing society, how can crime and deviance be reduced? These are questions that sociologists have long tried to answer, and we explore possible answers in the pages that follow.

    • 5.0: Prelude to Deviance, Crime, and Social Control
      “Attack Leaves Voter, 73, in Pain and Fear,” the headline said. In September 2008, a 73-year-old woman had just voted in the primary election in Boston, Massachusetts. As she walked home, two men rushed up, grabbed her purse, and knocked her down. She later said, “In this situation, you don’t think too much. Only, you get scared when people try to take everything from you.” A neighbor who came to the victim’s aid recalled, “I heard a woman in distress, screaming for help."
    • 5.1: Social Control and the Relativity of Deviance
      Deviance is behavior that violates social norms and arouses negative social reactions. Some behavior is considered so harmful that governments enact written laws that ban the behavior. Crime is behavior that violates these laws and is obviously an important type of deviance that concerns many Americans.  The fact that both deviance and crime arouse negative social reactions reminds us that every society needs to ensure that its members generally obey social norms in their daily interaction.
    • 5.2: Explaining Deviance
      If we want to reduce violent crime and other serious deviance, we must first understand why it occurs. Many theories of deviance exist, and together they offer a more complete explanation of deviance and the reactions to it than any one theory offers by itself. The sociological theories highlighted in the pages that follow stress elements of the social environment and of social interaction.
    • 5.3: Crime and Criminals
      We now turn our attention from theoretical explanations of deviance and crime to certain aspects of crime and the people who commit it. What do we know about crime and criminals in the United States?
    • 5.4: The Get-Tough Approach - Boon or Bust?
      It would be presumptuous to claim to know exactly how to reduce crime, but a sociological understanding of its causes and dynamics points to several directions that show strong crime-reduction potential. Before sketching these directions, we first examine the get-tough approach, a strategy the United States has used to control crime since the 1970s.
    • 5.S: Deviance, Crime, and Social Control (Summary)