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Erich Goode

Subject Deviance and Social Control » Sociology of Deviance

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


To the majority of sociologists, deviance is defined as the violation of a social norm which is likely to result in censure or punishment for the violator. Behind this seemingly simple and clear-cut definition, however, lurks a swarming host of controversies. A perusal of course curricula verifies that most sociologists who teach a course on deviance divide the field into two distinctly different perspectives: constructionist approaches and explanatory theories. The constructionist approach sees deviance as “subjectively problematic,” that is, “in the eye of the beholder,” and takes as its primary task an understanding of how judgments of deviance are put together, and with what consequences. Explanatory theories regard deviance as “objectively given,” that is, a syndrome-like entity with more or less clear-cut, identifiable properties whose causal etiology can be explicated by the social scientist. Each perspective has its own mission, agenda, enterprise, and methodology. And though these two approaches define deviance in superficially similar ways, their definitions point to sharply divergent universes of meaning. The enterprises in which these perspectives are engaged are in fact linked only by the objectively similar nature of their subject matter; conceptually and theoretically, they are worlds apart. The majority of sociologists of deviance are constructionists; that is, they ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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