Dr. John Lamberton, Clinical Sociologist
Putting Sociology to Work



Proprietary Lecture Notes
American Sociological Association statement on Deviance

The following text is excerpted from (www.people.vcu.edu/~jmahoney/deviance.htm#Introduction)

Groups, as we have seen constantly try to enforce conformity on their members through the use of sanctions-- both positive and negative; formal and informal.  In this section of the course, we'll address how and why people deviate from social norms.  Deviance is the violation of a social norm.  Emile Durkheim made a very strong and controversial claim when he said that  "No act is inherently deviant in and of itself.  Deviance is defined socially and varies from one group to another." Power groups within societies have a major role in defining what acts are deviant. But for this to work most people must acknowledge that power. That is, they they must recognize or feel that that power is legitimate that the state, or those in control have authority over them. This is an important distinction between force and coercion (i.e. raw power without recognition or consent of the people) and legitimate authority where people recognize and acknowledge the power over them. 

Deviance is one way that social change occurs. If a deviant act becomes more accepted it soon may be   considered legitimate. Who deviates in society? (those people who vary from formal or informal normative behaviors)  To some extent we all are. We break rules every day.