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David Emile Durkheim


Major Works
Solidarity and the Division of Labor
Collective Representations
Learning Tools
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WHAT IS DEVIANCE, as defined by Sociology? 

      -Any violation of norms or social expectations 
      -Deviance is relative. 
      -People are defined as deviant. 
      -Rules opposing deviance involve social power. 

Note: Social Control involves measures that encourage conformity and discourage deviance.


A.) Deviance is an integral part of all societies; deviance is normal to all healthy functioning societies.

      -People are socialized into an understanding of their society's norms and values. But, they are never 100% socialized. This would involve not one member of society ever even thinking a deviant thought, and this is not possible. 

      -Perfection in society is often termed Utopia. The uniformity necessary to achieve this in human society is not possible; people are too different and distinct in their sociological experiences, in their values and norms, and in their beliefs. 

      -Durkheim considers the example of a monastery. To outsiders, the monks appear to be living within a miniscule perfect society (Utopia). However, deviance still occurs therein. It can be as seemingly innocent (to us) as missing morning prayers, but such action is deviance from the norms they have been socialized into. [Note: Durkheim addresses this in his essay The Normal and the Pathological]

B.) Deviance serves 4 major functions:

      1. Affirming cultural values and norms
      2. Clarifying moral boundaries
      3. Promoting social unity
      4. Encouraging social change

C.) Crime is a form of deviance and is normal to healthy

      -Crime rates fluctuate over time, due to the complex nature of society. Whatever solution is taken at any given time is never a final solution, because crime still exists and persists. Varying political, economic, and demographic factors interact to influence the rate of crime at any given point in time. 

      -Healthy societies have relatively stable crime rates.

D.) Crime and deviance are, in a sense, good for society, if their rates do not fall too low or climb too high.

      -Very low crime rates are related to a dysfunctional society. 

      -Open, flexible societies with freedom have crime and deviant behavior. 

      -If a society's social structure is flexible, it tends to promote social change.

E.) Deviance can also be dysfunctional.

      -Rapid social change leads to disorganization and increased levels of deviance. [Note: This has been termed by certain sociologists as anomie] 

      -Crime rates which are too high add dysfunction to society by: 
              --destroying trust and solidarity 
              --creating social disorganization

The Rules of Sociological Method, 1964 [1895], Edited by George E.G. Catlin, Translated by Sarah A. Solovay & John H. Mueller.  New York: The Free Press of Glenco