What is
deviance and what does it mean to be deviant?

Deviant behavior in terms of broad
social conditions is constantly changing. Deviance is not just a matter of
numbers nor is what is less common. Deviant acts are not necessarily against the law but are considered abnormal and may be regarded as immoral rather than illegal.
An act is deviant because most would consider it immoral rather than criminal because it is not
against the laws of that jurisdiction. Other acts of deviance are not
necessarily immoral but are considered strange and violate social norms. Social norms are behaviors
accepted by either a significant group of people or those with the power to
enforce. These
types of deviant acts are meaningful though not considered to be criminal
under a legal definition. While some aspects of
personality may be inherited, psychologists largely see personality as a matter
of socialization and deviance as a matter of improper socialization. Individuals participating in these types of acts may exhibit a tendency toward antisocial behavior
often linked to criminal behavior. While there is value in both biological and psychological
approaches, each is limited in their explanation of deviance for they only
understand deviance as a matter of abnormality and do not answer the question
of why the things that are deviant are considered deviant in the first place.
Additionally, many jurisdictions are
moving to have these deviant behaviors declared illegal while others are doing the opposite to have longer considered
illegal.

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Is
knowing/agreeing upon what is and isn’t deviant behavior important for society?
Why or why not?

Social control is an attempt to regulate people’s thoughts and
behaviors in ways that control, or punish, deviance. These negative sanctions
are negative social reactions to deviance. The opposite, are positive sanctions
that are affirmative reactions that are usually in response to conformity.
Formal sanctioning of deviance occurs when norms are codified into law, and
violation almost always results in negative sanctions from the criminal justice
system. Sociologist Jackson
Toby proposed a theory of delinquency claiming that such tendencies toward deviance were shared equally among all individuals. Furthermore, Toby’s concept of a stake in conformity may serve to explain what prevents most people from committing a crime. The stake in
conformity is the extent to which individuals are willing to risk by breaking
the law or
invested in traditional
society standards. Agreeing
on what is considered deviant behavior is important because studies have shown that stake
in conformity is one of the most influential factors in an individual’s decision
to offend. Individuals who have nothing to lose are more likely to take risks
and violate norms than those who have relatively more invested in traditional
standards. Functionalists
and sociologists believe that deviance can have positive functions
for society and plays an
important role in society, such as being used to challenge people’s views. Emile Durkheim concluded that deviance is an essential
component of any strong society. He argued that deviance can serve two
necessary functions. It keeps a society stable by defining the boundaries of
acceptable behavior to promote integration by causing people to feel that they
belong to the group or society that supports those norms. Durkheim also noted that when deviance is
punished, societies
are made aware of what is acceptable and reaffirms current social norms, which equally contributes to society.