Free Summaries

Limitations of theories of sociology of deviance Sample Essay

Theories of Deviance are limited in their ability to explicate aberrant Acts of the Apostless if one adopts the position that these theories are cosmopolitan. There is no universal. right or incorrect theory. instead each theory provides a different position which merely “fully makes sense when set within an appropriate social context and values framework” .

The functionalist theories portion a common structural account of causes of aberrance. They assume that conformance in society is achieved through the being of norms and values shared by the general consensus and that a high degree of societal integrating is required for society to work successfully.

Merton’s Anomie of Strain theory hypothesises that deviant behavior is the consequence of a “disjunction between culturally defined ends to which most members of society aspire. and… . . legitimate agencies for accomplishing the goals” . Thus socially induced strain causes aberrant behavior.

Merton argues that many people in the USA strive to accomplish the “American dream” which recognises that all members of society have equal chances to accomplish success and that aberrance occurs when the ends take precedency over the agencies to accomplish them as people resort to deviant behavior as a consequence.

The theories chief premiss is that because low-class people are under greater strain than people of upper categories. they are more likely to prosecute in aberrant behavior. However one can non cut down aberrance into a simple equation of poorness and disaffection. Strain theory is limited in supplying accounts for why every individual populating in poorness does non prosecute in aberrant Acts of the Apostless. and why persons from upper categories of society do prosecute in offenses.

The anomy of strain theory is besides limited in that it adopts the premise that everyone in society portions the same ends of accomplishing wealth. Most surveies of individual’s precedences in life indicate matrimony. friendly relationships and wellness are of greater importance than material concerns such as success. which is at odds with the theories designation of stuff success as peoples chief motive. Another illustration of this is groups such as “hippies” who make a witting determination to reject ends of fiscal success as opposed to the failure to accomplish those same ends.

This highlights the demand for a farther account of why people engage in aberrant Acts of the Apostless. as clearly the failure to accomplish ends of fiscal success is the lone end in society people strive to accomplish.

The strain theory could besides be viewed as being limited in explicating aberrance in a cosmopolitan and equal mode. in so far as that it relies entirely on official offense statistics. which by and large tend to be both undependable and invalid as they fail to take the “dark figure” of offense into history and structural inequalities.

It is argued that the disproportional figure of low-class members of society are imprisoned because they lack the money. power and connexions of the upper-class person. the consequence is the low-class become a condemnable justness statistic while the upper-class have the influence and power to avoid prosecution and subsequent strong belief. Indeed it is discriminate to presume that because a individual is hapless that they are unequal plus unable to get by within their societal environment and can non assist but fall back to deviant behavior.

Feminist theories argue that the strain theory neglects the survey of adult females and is limited in accounts of aberrance due to its premises of gender specific theories of aberrance. Gender specific theories besides raise the issue of Manichaean theories: one to explicate male aberrance. and one to explicate female aberrance. How can one theory contend to be cosmopolitan when it has separate sets of theories for each sex?

Sutherlands differential association theory postulates that deviant behavior is contagious much like a disease. In other words people who are exposed to or tie in with those who engage in condemnable forms of behavior are more likely to go condemnable themselves. Sutherland contends that the likeliness of prosecuting in aberrant behavior is affected by the favorable procedures of frequence. continuance. precedence and strength of associations or exposures.

The restriction of the differential association theory ballad in the inquiry: if aberrant behavior is learned and is so “contagious” . so why do so many in high offense countries. including felons ain siblings non become felons? . Sociological constructs. which regard an person as a hapless victim of baneful influences. are limited in supplying a critical account of aberrance. as they ignore the function of personal pick.

When so many restrictions of the functionalist theory are put forward it is hard for one to subject to this theory as one of cosmopolitan application. The construct of consensual norms and values presents one of the major restrictions of the functionalist theory. By accepting the position quo in footings of nucleus values. functionalist theories fail to explicate how structural inequality contributes to deviance.

Specifying aberrance as behavior. which violates consensual societal norms. besides raises the inquiries of whose norms? Why are some norms more of import than others? And why do some norms appear to function the involvements of capitalist authoritiess and the powerful? .

The interactionist theory respects aberrance as an result of the labelling interaction procedure happening between people. Thus “deviance…… is a effect of the application by others of regulations and countenances to an offender” . Becker argues that there is no such thing as an per se aberrant act until so perceived by others and labelled as such.

The strength of the interactionist position is that aberrance is non a inactive phenomenon but instead a effect of dynamic societal interaction. which is continually constructed and modernized. This is in conformity with the proposal that constructs of aberrance alteration over clip and through society.

Becker besides theorises that to be labelled aberrant through societal interactive procedures moulds a individual into a “master status” . That is the deviant’s public individuality is destroyed and reinstated with one of a lower position. which is associated with disapproving and negative characteristic traits. This so affects the regard people held for that single antecedently. and besides the mode in which they interact with them through societal procedures of stigmatization and finally. banishment. Basically the label when applied creates a stigma. which denies the labeled legitimate chances of employment and interaction with more conventional societal relationships. therefore is later pushed farther into aberrant civilization. whereby the labeled is provided with justification for their continuing aberrance. The labeled embracings their new pervert individuality so bit by bit changes their self-identity to match to the aberrant public individuality that has been given to them through societal procedure.

Lemert argues that a differentiation must be made between primary divergence and secondary divergence. Primary aberrance is the initial act of aberrance. which goes unlabeled and therefore has small impact on the individual’s societal position or self-perception. Secondary aberrance occurs when the act is identified as pervert and is accordingly publically labelled. it is here that they undergo a symbolic reorientation of their ain self-identity.

A theoretical restriction of interactionism is its inability to explicate why people commit aberrant Acts of the Apostless. The accent on the individuality of the pervert besides fails to account for the oppressors. That is. interactionism is limited in explicating aberrant Acts of the Apostless to the full as it merely partly explains the procedure utilizing the less powerful members of society as a paradigm. Theorists fail to account for those who break norms and whose power and influence enable them to avoid being negatively labelled. To get the better of this restriction it is suggested that interactionist theoreticians shift attending from procedures of interaction to documenting how political and economic construction and power play a function in specifying aberrance.

The rule of secondary aberrance in peculiar. high spots the basically deterministic position that the interactionist theory proposes. It suggests worlds are conceived into this universe like a ball of clay to be entirely to be shaped by external forces which raises the inquiry. why are we non all victims to some oppressive societal status? Interactionist theory once more limits itself going a theory of cosmopolitan application and significance as it disregards a critical consideration of the single themselves and the free picks they make. Interactionism assumes that one time a individual is labelled they have no pick but to go on prosecuting in aberrant activities. but it fails to explicate what and why some have the capacity to reject a label and other deficiency such a capacity.

Interactionism is besides less utile in explicating more serious offenses such as slaying and colza. Crimes such as these can non harmonize with the labelling position that no act is per se aberrant as it is hard to accept that these Acts of the Apostless result strictly from secondary aberrance. Concentrating entirely on societal reaction in respect to such offenses both limits a cosmopolitan account and distorts the world of aberrant behavior.

As a theory can non suggest to be cosmopolitan if it can non successfully use its theory without hinderance to all signifiers of aberrance.

The interactionist position through all its restrictions and unfavorable judgments did raise the issue of power and conflicting involvements between groups in society. which may ensue in the less powerful groups being labelled pervert. This issue is addressed by the Marxist theory.

The Marxist or struggle theory positions aberrance as a manifestation of societal struggle. structural inequality and differential intervention. Theorists propose that the values and involvements of the powerful categories of society straight influence and form the Torahs. policies and patterns of the condemnable justness system. This so consequences in position that working-class offense is more harmful and so more aberrant than offenses of the powerful. which are chiefly seen as victimless offenses aimed at increasing 1s ain wealth plus power in society. This position protects and labels the activities of the powerful as legitimate developments. which are unworthy of criminalization or countenance. Denying the world of aberrance of the powerful will perpetually prevent any redress for alteration.

The authorities and the governing capitalist category manipulate the condemnable justness system as a agency to counter menaces to predominating societal and economic order. Marxist theoreticians contend that because offense is the consequence of unequal category dealingss. offense can non be abolished until the societal construction and its inequalities are remedied. However the narrow observation of this Marxist statement is responded to rhetorically by the absurdness of a 1939 US study cited by Clinard declaring unequal lodging and societal plans as the cause of all offense. and their riddance ensuing in a crimeless universe.

Economic hardship affects a great figure of people but it must be argued that Marxist theories are limited in accomplishing an absolute account of why people commit aberrant Acts of the Apostless. Social and power inequalities may patronize structural hardships and make a favorable environment for offense. but the responsible single responds to such hardship through difficult work and forfeit. finally the pick to perpetrate a aberrant act comes down to how each individual trades with hardship in life. The published position of Marxists that hardship is the be all and stop all cause of offense is highly narrow and limited. If hardship. in peculiar an economic sort ( which is created through societal inequality ) is the exclusive cause of offense. so how does a individual subscribing to the Marxist theory explain the 1981-1984 bead in juvenile offense during the center of the recession? And how do they explicate the bead in all classs of offense in the US during the 1981-1983. besides co-occuring with the early 1980’s recession in which 1000000s of working category people became unemployed? Surely an economic recession of such magnitude would do a crisp rise in offense rates? This highlights the restriction of explicating why people commit aberrant Acts of the Apostless in footings of pure hardship in capitalist societies.

The implicit in restriction of all sociological theories is that they ignore the function of personal pick to prosecute in aberrant Acts of the Apostless and they view the environment as the individual factor in finding whether one engages in aberrant Acts of the Apostless.

It could be besides argued that sociological theories of aberrance are counterproductive because they continually provide alibis. Environmental factors do hold an consequence on people. but everyone perceives and reacts to adverse conditions in really different ways. Some continue believing that if environmental conditions are improved. that there will be less offense. nevertheless the 1967 US presidential committee which perceptibly improved societal conditions through lodging. employment. instruction and civil rights statute law failed to do any positive impact on offense degrees in countries which were improved. in fact offense degrees worsened.

Feminist theory besides attacks conventional cognition within the existent of sociological aberrance theories. “Theory after theory…… interruptions down when adult females are put into the explanatory equation” .

It could besides be argued that restrictions. which have been critiqued in each theory. have made a positive impact. For it is merely with such unfavorable judgments that a greater grade of attending is paid to rectifying defects. chiefly through the research of other theories in an purpose to convey each theory closer to single adequateness instead than corporate adequateness. Despite the unfavorable judgments and restrictions of the sociology of aberrance. the theories still remain as an highly utile tool in analyzing the condemnable justness system.

With so many conflicting sociological positions. it is impossible to contemplate a theory. which is genuinely cosmopolitan.

If one adopts the position that a theory is distinct and cosmopolitan in authorization so all sociological theories are limited in their single account of aberrant Acts of the Apostless. However if one adopts the position that each theory provides a different position of the overall condemnable justness system that is able to explicate the negative effects of the condemnable justness system so sociological theories of aberrance jointly as opposed to discretely. can be perceived to be equal in explicating aberrant Acts of the Apostless. No one theory can be wholly right or wholly incorrect. All have made of import parts in portion. and when jointly combined all perceived restrictions give manner to the mass of cognition to be gained through a battalion of positions.


Bulbeck C. Social Sciences in Australia. 2nd erectile dysfunction. Harcourt Brace. Sydney. 1998.

Sargent M. Nilan P. Winter G. The New Sociology For Australians. 4th erectile dysfunction. Longman. Sydney. 1997.

Roach Anleu S. Deviance. Conformity and Control. 3rd erectile dysfunction. Longman Australia Pty Ltd. Sydney. 2000.

White R & A ; Haines F. Crime and Criminology: An Introduction. 2nd erectile dysfunction. Oxford University Press. Melbourne. 2000.

Van Krieken R. Smith P. Habibis D. Mcdonald K. Haralambos M. Holborn M. Sociology Themes and Perspectives. 2nd erectile dysfunction. Longman. Sydney. 2000.

Samenow S. Inside the Criminal Mind. Crown Publishing. New York. 1984.

Iannone C. “Standard Deviance” . ( 2002 ) . 54 ( 20 ) . National Review. 52-54.

Young J. “Writing on the cusp of change” . The New Criminology Revisited. Macmillian. London. 1998.

Langan P & A ; Farrington D. Crime and Justice

in the United States and in England and Wales. 1981-96. U. S. Department of Justice

Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics

Cahill L & A ; Marshall P. 2002. Statistics on Juvenile Detention in Australia: 1981-2001. Technical and Background Paper Series. no. 1. Australian
Institute of Criminology. Canberra.

Clinard M. Sociology of Deviant Behavior. Wadsworth Publishing. New York. 1963.

Taylor I. Walton P. Young J. The New Criminology: For a Social Theory of Deviance. Routledge & A ; Kegan Paul. London. 1973.

Back To Top