There are many theories that try to explain the reason people commit crimes. However, this has resulted in a lack of consensus as to why crime exists in the first place. However, crime is generally perceived to be the expression of deviant behavior in that the perpetrators exhibit behavior that is usually frowned upon by the society. The relationship between crime and deviant behavior can provide a positive indicator as to the reasons behind the occurrence of crime (DeKeseredy et al., 2005). A large extent of criminology studies have analyzed crime with respect to legal issues and crime-related phenomena while those who have devoted time to studying deviance perceive the issue in behavioral terms that are not necessarily illegal in nature. As such, deviant behavior such as alcoholism, flatulence, public nose-picking, suicide, and homosexuality have been given priority devoid of their relationship with the existence of crime (Jrank Website, 2016).
Students of deviance have come to acknowledge the fact that many acts of deviance are illegal, and the data available shows this phenomenon with more accuracy as compared to data that depicts the legal forms of deviance. As such, it is important to assess deviance from more than just a legalistic point of view as is the case with a large majority of criminology studies. Deviant behavior is increasingly playing an important role in deciphering the issues that surround crime occurrence in our society (Jrank Website, 2016). A recent trend has been to remove the distinction between criminology and deviance studies as such a perspective is already seen as being counterproductive and even false to some measure. For example, criminologists as well as students of deviance are interested in understanding the reasoning behind their academic pursuits. Both studies have several overlaps that can be useful in understanding crime as well as acts of deviance (Jrank Website, 2016).
Deviance essentially describes the violation of established cultural, contextual and/or social norms. The norms may be either mores, folkways or even codified law. The difference between crime and deviance is that crime tends to not only break a norm but a law as well. On the other hand, deviance can include minor acts such the picking of ones nose in public and major acts such as acts of terrorism involving the destruction of cities and ultimately the murder of innocent lives (Rock, 1973). In 1994, John Hagen provided a typological framework for classifying deviant acts in relation to their perceived level of harm to the society (DeKeseredy et al., 2005). The gravest of deviant acts were considered to be consensus crimes in that there is a near-unanimous public agreement as to their effects. On the other hand, there are conflict crimes, which are considered to be illegal, but lack enough public accord concerning their seriousness (Little, 2016). The crimes include issues such as drug abuse and prostitution, and there is a serious level of public debate as to whether such acts should be made legal. Then, there are social deviations, which constitute acts that are not illegal, but are considered to be gravely harmful and include behaviors borne out of mental illness and acts such as the abuse of fellow workers (Rock, 1973). In these scenarios, people respond by calling for institutional intervention. Lastly, there exist social diversions, which tend to violate societal norms in a provocative manner, although they are regarded as harmless. The acts include facial piercings and riding on sidewalks (Little, 2016).
From this analysis, deviant behavior is a highly subjective issue as it can take both a social and a legalistic perspective. The most important issue has to be the society in which people live in since it dictates the appropriateness of actions (Jrank Website, 2016). In this regard, should the rules of a society change, it goes without saying that deviant behaviors will also get new definitions. As such, the notions of deviance change in relation to the rules and norms that vary across cultures and time. The context of someones existence matters since some actions may be disallowed in the wider open society, but become permissible in some situations. A case in point is depicted by the violent brawls that break out in ice-hockey matches. As such, the acts are not deviant in themselves; they are dependent on the societys definition of the specific act (Little, 2016).
Research has shown that continuous labeling of people makes them be criminalized through the increased contact with the criminal justice system. Again, crime is a conception of the justice system. In this regard, to understand crime, one has to appreciate the significant role of various power structures and social variable that continuously dictate the outcomes of individuals who have been in pursuit of criminal lifestyles (Akers & Jensen, 2006). Crimes are defined by laws, which are social rules that come with a penalty as a result of their violation. It is the society that dictates the laws, thus, determining the behaviors of people through them (Little, 2016). Violation of such laws is considered to be worthy of legal action through the various law enforcement agencies as well as the judicial system. The laws are responsible for ensuring that order is maintained in the society, and the citizens of a place are not exposed to various forms of harm (DeKeseredy et al., 2005).
The significance of such laws is that whether people believe in their validity or not, they will feel their full effect when they break them. It is a requirement for all citizens as well as guests of a particular geographical position to abide by the laws therein to leave peacefully. The laws do not prevent people from their right to a particular belief system, thus, showing again that deviant behavior is largely a subjective matter (Little, 2016). The problem is that criminal laws tend to be based on the opinions of a majority of people living within a certain jurisdiction. The laws are introduced to deal with behaviors considered deviant; thus, the only way of changing the laws is to appeal to the citizenry (Jrank Website, 2016). This fact is reflected in the legalization of homosexuality across many states in America in conjunction with the legalization of marijuana. For many years, these were generally taboo terms signifying that a large section of the society was not comfortable with them. However, their expression in the U.S is no longer considered to be a violation of various norms with a large section of the population being comfortable with them (Tepperman, 2006).
Crime and deviance are social constructs and their variation is majorly based on the definition of a particular offense, the nature of policing as well as the attributes of criminals. The relations of power that determine the society in a particular place are also important (Akers & Jensen, 2006). However, deviance encounters problems in its definition and placement since such processes do not provide clear and adequate structures for commensurate social responses. The choice of labeling in the society has consequences, and it is also important to understand this relationship to solve some of the biggest problems in our society (Little, 2016).
Akers, R. L., & Jensen, G. F. (2006). The empirical status of social learning theory of crime and deviance: The past, present, and future. Taking stock: The status of criminological theory, 15, 37-76.
DeKeseredy, W., Ellis, D., Alvi, S., & Ellis, D. (2005). Deviance + crime. [Newark, NJ]: LexisNexis/Anderson.
Jrank Website. (2016). Deviance - Relationship between Deviance and Crime. Law.jrank.org. Retrieved 22 August 2016, from http://law.jrank.org/pages/973/Deviance-Relationship-between-deviance-crime.html
Little, W. (2016). Chapter 7. Deviance, Crime, and Social Control | Introduction to Sociology 1st Canadian Edition. Opentextbc.ca. Retrieved 22 August 2016, from https://opentextbc.ca/introductiontosociology/chapter/chapter7-deviance-crime-and-social-control/
Rock, P. (1973). Deviant behaviour. London: Hutchinson.
Tepperman, L. (2006). Deviance, crime, and control. Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford University Press.
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