Sociology 5310-504

Deviance

Spring 2002

 

www.global-college.com

 

6-8:50 Thursdays

UH 007

Professor:  Raymond A. Eve, Ph. D.

Office: 442UH

OFFICE HRS: TTH 11-12, and by appointment

Office Phone: 273-3764

Sociology Dept: 273-2661

                              eve@uta.edu

 

 

1. INTRODUCTION 

Few subjects receive more emotionally charged treatment by civic and religious organizations, and radio-television-motion picture and printing press industries, and the public than "deviant behavior"-- including its causes, its meaning, and how it should be dealt with and by whom. However, these emotional responses to the subject of deviance can be shown (and will be shown in this course) to have in many respects created deviance and deviants.

This has occurred both by (a) increasing the range of behaviors which are defined as criminal and/or deviant, e.g., "over-criminalization," and, (b) by responses such as labeling and ostracism which often vastly increase the probability that a "client" will commit further crimes.

 

If we are truly interested in allowing both "deviants" and those individuals who compose the public to develop their full legitimate human potentials (insofar as this development is prevented by deviant behavior), we can no longer afford the luxury of a highly emotional response to deviance.  What is needed is a calm, rational, scientific approach to the study of “differentness.”  Even within these limits there are several ways we can study deviance.  We can adopt not only a sociological viewpoint, but also a psychological viewpoint (as is usual in law schools), a policy-management point of view, and so on.  In this course, we will, of course, be primarily concerned with a sociological perspective rather than with the other various possibilities, and during the course we will try to discover just what is distinctive about a sociological approach that separates it from other possible approaches.

 

WHAT IS DISTINCTIVE ABOUT A SOCIOLOGICAL APPROACH TO DEVIANCE?

 

As pointed out above, there are several scientific approaches to the study of differentness and the sociological aspects of deviance?  First of all, sociology is primarily concerned with how groups or categories or aggregates as a whole are involved in deviant behavior rather than how individuals and individual mental states are involved (this latter being the psychological approach).  Thus, sociology asks questions such as what categories of people, or groups, or societies are most likely to commit the various types of crimes?  Are there different deviance rates for (a) social classes within a given society, (b) different regions within a nation, (c) different areas within a city, and (d) are there different crime rates for males and females as a whole?  Also, we want to ask not only if there are different deviance rates for comparisons similar to those above, but also we want to ask if different types of deviance are committed by the groups being compared above.  For example, do Southerners in the U.S. tend to commit different patterns of deviance and at different rates that Northerners?

 

Sociological inquiry might also ask, "What group or groups 'create' deviance and deviants?  Do these definitions serve the interests of everyone in the society, or do they serve primarily the interests of certain segments of society?"

 

We might also wish to ask questions about the responses of categories of people within a society or of different societies to deviant acts.  How can they respond?  With courts of law, prisons, rehabilitative program,... what else?  What purposes do these responses have for different groups or societies?

 

II. WHY STUDY DEVIANCE FROM A SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE?

 

One primary reason is so that we can obtain an accurate picture of the distribution of social costs of deviance.  While most of us have what we might call an "emotional" picture of deviant behavior, how closely does this emotional picture correspond to reality?  We must answer this question before we can design responses to deviance (including public policy, judicial techniques, and punishment and/or rehabilitative programs) which will have beneficial effects.  If our perceptions of deviance are not accurate, any program we design as a response to these problems will, of course, not "fit reality and, hence, will be largely or completely ineffective.  This is an inefficiency which we can ill afford both morally and economically.  Morally, we may punish and harass certain segments of society seriously out of proportion to the true seriousness of their crimes while letting other segments off lightly for much more serious offenses.  Or we may, if we are not careful, end up punishing people simply for "being different" rather than for any clear-cut infraction of the law where an easily identifiable victim can be found.  For example, many would question the wisdom of passing laws against marijuana use, pornography, gambling, homosexuality, prostitution, etc. 

These are the so-called "victimless crimes" which we will discuss under the topic of "overcriminalization" or the possible tendency to pass too many laws).  In summary, there are serious moral consequences for not obtaining a scientific, rational understanding of the cause, distribution, and consequences of deviance.

 

Finally, economically, sociology would question the wisdom of trying to rehabilitate offenders on a one-to-one basis either before (early identification and prevention) or after committing a deviant act (basically a psychological or psychotherapy approach to crime).  Instead, sociologists would suggest that aggregate or group approaches concerning prevention and responses to deviance would be much more economical.  Rather than deal with offenders or potential offenders on a one-to-one basis, sociologists might try approaches such as raising the income of crime-ridden area, improving these areas.  Or they might try to restructure the social relationships between people or categories of people in high deviance programs, trying group mental health programs, opening progressive day-care centers for children in crime-ridden areas, helping minority groups to start their own businesses and so forth).

 

By studying deviance from a sociological perspective, we may be able to begin to move toward a society free of deviants.  But before we do this, be sure you think you know the answer to the questions, "Are there any undesirable effects which would be created by the elimination of all deviance?"   Think deeply before you try to answer this question.  What would be the impact of eliminating the need for many police, detective, and social work agencies?  Where would innovation, both technical and in terms of new, adaptive life-styles come from?

 

III. PREREQUISITES

 

There are no specific perquisites for the course.  However, if the student does not have a strong background in sociology, and one or more undergraduate courses in the area of crime/delinquency/deviance, the student should discuss this with Professor before taking Deviance.

 

IV. COURSE DESCRIPTION

 

This course will have as its goals inquiry into the following questions. (1) What are the social and political processes through which certain behaviors and persons (and not others) come to be considered "deviant?"  (2) What are the social sources of different degrees of involvement in deviance? (3) What are the societal “reactors” to deviance (e.g., prisons, juvenile corrections programs, etc., and how successful have these various responses been in eliminating offenses?  What other alternatives are possible and/or desirable?

 

In addition to the above goals, we will also try to establish certain basic skills of method and interpretation in each student.  Examples of this would be: advanced analysis of data and statistics related to deviant activity, ability to read and interpret tables of data, ability to avoid making errors in inferences concerning the sources of deviance and so forth.

 

V. ATTENDANCE

           

Students making poor grades but having been present at most class meetings and who have participated in discussion and otherwise revealed motivation and a sincere attempt to learn in the course will receive more sympathy in evaluation of their work than students with poor grades who attend rarely.  (You will be responsible for obtaining all materials distributed in class as well as for any announcements made in class.)

 

 VI.      GRADING PRACTICES

 

Your grade will be based on a midterm examination and a final examination, a term paper, and an in-class presentation.

 

(Reasons for excusal from the exam or quizzes must be very serious.  Medical excuses will be accepted when serious).

 

 

 

The estimated dates for the exams  and papers are show just below, and the percentage of your

grade each composes is indicated.

 

                        April 4th                   Midterm Exam         30%

                        May  9th                   Final Exam               30%  (8:15 – 10:45 p.m.)

                        April 25th                 Term Paper               30%

                        TBA                         Class Presentation   10%           

 

 

VII.      LATE ASSIGNMENTS

 

Any assignments which are turned in late will have their scores reduced by 5% each day they are late unless the student has a valid, variably excuse of a serious nature.

 

VIII. DISABILITY POLICY

 

Any student feeling they are suffering from a significant disability should contact the professor

as soon as possible (preferably during the first week of classes) to discuss any special

arrangements that may be needed to accommodate them in the course.

 

IX. HONESTY POLICY

 

Students are expected to be aware of, and abide by, the University’s honesty policy.

 

X. Textbooks:

 

   A.     Goode, Erich.  2001.  Deviant Behavior (6th edition).  Prentice Hall.

             ISNB: 0-13-082578-6

 

   B.   Adler, P and P. Adler, Constructions of Deviance: Social Power, Context, and Interaction
           
3rd Edition. 2000.
Wadsworth.  ISBN/ISSN: 0-534-53912-2