Chapter 8. Deviance, Crime, and Social Control

Chapter 8 Resources and Activities

Key Terms

Aboriginal sentencing circles: The involvement of Indigenous communities in the sentencing of Indigenous offenders.

community-based sentencing: Offenders serve a conditional sentence in the community, usually by performing some sort of community service.

compensatory social control: A means of social control that obliges an offender to pay a victim to compensate for a harm committed.

conciliatory social control: A means of social control that reconciles the parties of a dispute and mutually restores harmony to a social relationship that has been damaged.

consensus crimes: Serious acts of deviance about which there is near-unanimous public agreement.

conflict crimes: Acts of deviance that may be illegal but about which there is considerable public disagreement concerning their seriousness.

confrontational tension/fear barrier: A threshold that needs to be crossed for violence to take place in face to face conflicts.

control theory: A theory that states social control is directly affected by the strength of social bonds and that deviance results from a feeling of disconnection from society.

corporate crime: Crime committed by white-collar workers in a business environment.

corrections system: The system tasked with supervising individuals who have been arrested, convicted, or sentenced for criminal offences.

court: A system that has the authority to make decisions about criminal responsibility and sentencing based on law.

crime: A behaviour that violates official law and is punishable through formal sanctions.

crimes of accommodation: Crimes committed as ways in which individuals cope with conditions of oppression and inequality.

criminal justice system: An organization that exists to enforce a legal code.

deviance: A violation of contextual, cultural, or social norms.

differential association theory: A theory that states individuals learn deviant behaviour from those close to them.

disciplinary social control: Detailed continuous training, control, observation, correction and rehabilitation of individuals to improve their capabilities.

doubly deviant: Women (or other categories of individual) who break both laws and gender (or other) norms.

examination: The use of tests by authorities to assess, document, and know individuals.

folkways: Norms based on everyday cultural customs like etiquette.

formal sanctions: Penalties for rule breaking that are officially recognized and enforced.

government: Practices by which individuals or organizations seek to govern the behaviour of others or themselves.

hate crimes: Attacks based on prejudice against a person’s or group’s race, religion, sexuality or other characteristics.

informal sanctions: Penalties for rule breaking that occur in face-to-face interactions.

labelling theory: The ascribing of a deviant identity to another person by members of society.

law: Norms that are specified in explicit codes and enforced by government bodies.

legal codes: Codes that maintain formal social control through laws.

looping effect: The interaction between scientific classifications and targeted “kinds of people,” which influences the behaviour of the people thus classified.

master status: A label that describes the chief characteristic of an individual.

moral entrepreneur: An individual or group who, in the service of its own interests,  publicizes and problematizes “wrongdoing” and has the power to promote, influence, create or enforce rules to penalize wrongdoing.

moral panic: An expanding cycle of deviance, media-generated public fears, and police reaction.

mores: Serious moral injunctions or taboos that are broadly recognized in a society.

negative sanctions: Punishments for violating norms.

new penology: Strategies of social control that identify, classify, and manage groupings of offenders by the degree of risk they represent to the general public.

nonviolent crimes: Crimes that involve the destruction or theft of property, but do not use force or the threat of force.

normalization: The process by which norms are used to differentiate, rank, and correct individual behaviour.

normalizing society: A society that uses continual observation, discipline, and correction of its subjects to exercise social control.

overrepresentation: The difference between the proportion of an identifiable group in a particular institution (like the correctional system) and their proportion in the general population.

panopticon: Institutional architecture that renders subjects visible to a centralized authority; Jeremy Betham’s model for the ideal prison.

penal social control: A means of social control that prohibits certain social behaviours and responds to violations with punishment.

penal-welfare complex: The network of institutions that create and exclude inter-generational, criminalized populations on a semi-permanent basis.

police: A civil force in charge of regulating laws and public order at a federal, provincial, or community level.

positive sanctions: Rewards given for conforming to norms.

primary deviance: A violation of norms that does not result in any long-term effects on the individual’s self-image or interactions with others.

psychopathy: A personality disorder characterized by anti-social behaviour, diminished empathy, and lack of inhibitions.

racial profiling: The singling out of a particular racial group for extra policing.

recidivism: The tendency of offenders to reoffend.

restorative justice conferencing: A technique of conciliatory social control which focuses on establishing a direct, face-to-face connection between the offender and the victim.

risk management: (1) Interventions designed to reduce the likelihood of undesirable events occurring based on an assessment of probabilities of risk. (2) As a means of social control, the strategies to restructure the environment or context of problematic behaviour in order to minimize the risks to the general population.

sanctions: A means of enforcing rules through either rewards o punishments.

secondary deviance: A change in a person’s self-concept and behaviour after their actions are labelled as deviant by members of society.

secondary victimization: After an initial victimization, secondary victimization is incurred through criminal justice processes.

self-fulfilling prophecy: The act of labeling someone as criminal or deviant creates barriers and impediments that make it difficult for them to pass or survive in legitimate society. The label causes itself to become true.

self-report study: Collection of data acquired using voluntary response methods, such as questionnaires or telephone interviews.

situational crime control: Strategies of social control that redesign spaces where crimes or deviance could occur to minimize the risk of crimes occurring there.

social control: The regulation and enforcement of norms.

social deviations: Departures from normal behaviour that are not illegal but are widely regarded as harmful.

social disorganization theory: Theory that asserts crime occurs in communities with weak social ties and the absence of social control.

social diversions: Acts that violate social norms but are generally regarded as harmless.

social order: An arrangement of regular, predictable practices and behaviours on which society’s members base their daily lives and expectations.

sociopathy: A personality disorder characterized by anti-social behaviour, diminished empathy, and lack of inhibitions.

strain theory: A theory that addresses the conflictual relationship between having socially acceptable goals while lacking socially acceptable means to reach those goals.

street crime: Crime committed by average people against other people or organizations, usually in public spaces.

surveillance: Various means used to make the lives and activities of individuals visible to authorities.

therapeutic social control: A means of social control that uses therapy to return individuals to a normal state.

traditional Aboriginal justice: A system of justice centred on healing and building or re-establishing community rather than retribution and punishment.

twin myths of rape: The notion that women lie about sexual assault out of malice toward men and women will say “no” to sexual relations when they really mean “yes”.

victimless crime: Activities against the law that do not result in injury to any individual other than the person who engages in them.

violent crimes: Crimes based on the use of force or the threat of force against a person or persons.

white-collar crime: Crimes committed by high status or privileged members of society.

zones of transition: Areas within the city characterized by high levels of migration, social diversity, and social change.

Section Summary

8.1 Deviance and Control
Deviance is a violation of norms. Whether or not something is deviant depends on contextual definitions, the situation, and people’s response to the behaviour. Authorities seek to limit deviance through the use of sanctions and strategies of disciplinary correction or risk management that help maintain a system of social control.

8.2 Theoretical Perspectives on Deviance
The three major sociological paradigms offer different explanations for the motivation behind deviance and crime. Positivist explanations develop predictions of criminal or deviant behaviour based individuals’ social background variables. Durkheim’s functionalist theory, social disorganization theory, control theory and strain theory are examples of positivist theories. Critical sociologists argue that crime stems from a system of inequality that keeps those with power at the top and those without power at the bottom. Feminist sociologists emphasize that gender inequalities play an important role in determining what types of acts are actually regarded as criminal. Symbolic interactionists focus attention on the socially constructed nature of the labels related to deviance. Crime and deviance are learned from the environment and enforced or discouraged by close contacts and situational processes or variables.

8.3 Crime and the Law
Crime is established by legal codes and upheld by the criminal justice system. Although crime rates increased throughout most of the 20th century, they have been dropping since their peak in 1991 because of changes in demographics, employment and policing strategies. The corrections system is the dominant system of criminal punishment but a number of community-based sentencing models offer alternatives that promise more effective outcomes in terms of recidivism.

8.4 Public Policy Debates on Crime

Public policy on crime is affected by interest groups, moral entrepreneurs, political actors, media representations, and cycles of moral panic. Sociology can contribute to public policy by providing a basis for evidence based decision making.


Quiz: Deviance, Crime and Social Control

8.1 Deviance and Control

  1. Which of the following best describes how deviance is defined?
    1. Deviance is defined by federal, provincial, and local laws.
    2. Deviance is defined by moral philosophy and religious texts.
    3. Deviance is defined by acts that cause another harm.
    4. Deviance is defined by historical social processes.
  2. In 1946, Viola Desmond was arrested for refusing to sit in the blacks-only section of the cinema in Nova Scotia. This is an example of                 .
    1. A consensus crime.
    2. A conflict crime.
    3. A social deviation.
    4. A social diversion.
  3. A student has a habit of texting during class. One day, the professor stops their lecture and asks the student to respect the other students in the class by turning off their phone. In this situation, the professor used                  to maintain social control.
    1. Informal positive sanctions
    2. Formal negative sanction
    3. Informal negative sanctions
    4. Reintegrative shaming
  4. Public health measures practice risk management to                  .
    1. Increase capacities and skills.
    2. Reduce harms.
    3. Exercize surveillance.
    4. Fulfill prophecies.
  5. School discipline obliges students to sit in rows and listen to lessons quietly in order for them to learn. This strategy of education demonstrates                 .
    1. Compensatory social control.
    2. A manifest function.
    3. Production of docility.
    4. Positive sanctions.

8.2 Theoretical Perspectives on Deviance

  1. A student wakes up late and realizes their sociology exam starts in five minutes. They jump into their car and speeds down the road, where they are pulled over by a police officer. The student explains that they are running late, and the officer lets them off with a warning. The student’s actions are an example of                 .
    1. Primary deviance.
    2. Driving while white.
    3. Secondary deviance.
    4. Master deviance.
  2. According to critical sociology, which of the following people is most likely to commit a crime of accommodation?
    1. A student struggling to get better grades
    2. An addict who sees a handful of loonies in an unlocked car
    3. A professor who is tempted to publish someone else’s work as his own
    4. A mechanic who dislikes a customer
  3. According to social disorganization theory, where is crime most likely to occur?
    1. A transient community where neighbours do not know each other very well
    2. A neighbourhood with poor urban planning
    3. In unpatrolled streets or public spaces
    4. A class society with individuals who are under strain to be very competitive
  4. Symbolic interactionists argue that crime is linked primarily to                 .
    1. Power relationships.
    2. Master status.
    3. Rejection of family values.
    4. Symbolic gestures of protest or disaffiliation.
  5. According to the concept of crimes of domination, why would a celebrity film producer such as Harvey Weinstein commit a crime?
    1. His parents committed similar crimes
    2. His power protects him from retribution
    3. His power disconnects him from society
    4. He is challenging socially accepted norms
  6. A convicted sexual offender is released on parole and arrested two weeks later for repeated sexual crimes. How would labelling theory explain this?
    1. The offender has been labelled deviant by society and has accepted this master status
    2. The offender has returned to his old neighbourhood and so re-established his former habits
    3. The offender has lost the social bonds he made in prison and feels disconnected from society
    4. The offender is poor and coping with conditions of oppression and inequality
  7. According to micro-sociology, violence is difficult in practice because                 .
    1. A culture of violence does not actually exist in face-to-face encounters.
    2. People are fearful of getting hurt.
    3. Violence breaks social norms.
    4. Violence has an emotional basis.

8.3 Crime and the Law

  1. Which of the following is an example of corporate crime?
    1. Embezzlement
    2. Larceny
    3. Exploitation
    4. Burglary
  2. Spousal abuse is an example of a                 .
    1. Street crime.
    2. Crime of domination.
    3. Violent crime.
    4. Conflict crime.
  3. Which of the following situations best describes crime trends in Canada?
    1. Rates of violent and nonviolent crimes were decreasing until 2014 and then increased.
    2. Rates of violent crimes are decreasing, but there are more nonviolent crimes now than ever before.
    3. Crime rates have been increasing since the 1970s but since 2014 have slightly decreased.
    4. Rates of street crime have gone up, but corporate crime has gone down.
  4. What is a disadvantage of crime victimization surveys?
    1. They do not take into account the personal circumstances of the criminals.
    2. They may be unable to reach important groups, such as those without phones.
    3. They do not address the relationship between the criminal and the victim.
    4. They only include information not reported to police officers.

8.4 Public Policy Debates on Crime

  1. A moral panic is                 .
    1. A stampede of ethicists to the lunch counter between conference sessions.
    2. Anxiety based on existential threats like climate change and system collapse.
    3. Anxiety based statistical crime rates.
    4. Anxiety based on the actions of folk devils.
  2. People are likely to have distorted views of actual levels of crime or threat to personal safety because of                 .
    1. Moral entrepreneurs.
    2. Moral enterprises.
    3. Chaos news.
    4. All of the above.

[Quiz answers at end of chapter]

Short Answer

8.1 Deviance and Control

  1. Since deviance is culturally defined, most of the decisions people make are dependent on the reactions of others. During the COVID-19 pandemic was wearing a mask or getting a vaccine encouraged or discouraged in your milieu? Would defying the attitudes of your milieu be an example of “consensus” or “conflict” deviance? What were the repercussions for yourself or others of defying the prevailing attitudes of your milieu on this issue?
  2. Deaths from intravenous drug use from a poisoned drug supply is regarded as a crisis in many communities. What do you think the best response to this issue is? Which type of social control strategy does your choice of response best match: sanction, discipline or risk management?

8.2 Theoretical Perspectives on Deviance

  1. Pick a famous politician, business leader, or celebrity who has been arrested recently. What crime did they allegedly commit? Who was the victim? Explain their actions from the point of view of one of the major sociological paradigms. What factors best explain how this person might be punished if convicted of the crime?
  2. Discuss the merits of positivist, critical sociology and interpretive sociology to violent crime.

8.3 Crime and the Law

  1. What are the three different types of statistic used to measure crime rates in Canada? What are the merits and limitations of each of them?
  2. Could you imagine abolishing the prison sysem? Why or why not? Would any of the alternatives to prison be an effective replacement? Why or why not?

8.4 Public Policy Debates on Crime

  1. Recall the crime statistics presented earlier in this chapter. Do they surprise you given the way crime is reported in the media? Or do you find the media generally accurate? Why does the public perceive that crime rates are increasing and believe that punishment should be stricter when actual crime rates are much lower than they were in 1991?
  2. The media’s focus on different types of crime topic or criminal waxes and wanes over time. Think about a recent media focus or one that you were aware of in your lifetime. Does it conform to the model of a moral panic? Why/why not?

Further Research

8.1 Deviance and Control
Although people rarely think of it in this way, deviance can have a positive effect on society. Check out the Positive Deviance Initiative, a program initiated by Tufts University to promote social movements around the world that strive to improve people’s lives.

8.2 Theoretical Perspectives on Deviance
The Vancouver safe injection site is a controversial strategy to address the public health concerns associated with intravenous drug use. Read about the perspectives that promote and critique the safe injection site model at the following websites. Can you determine how the positions expressed by the different sides of the issue fit within the different sociological perspectives on deviance?  What is the best way to deal with the problems of addiction?

8.3 Crime and the Law
How is crime data collected in Canada? Read about the victimization survey used by Statistics Canada:


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Solutions to Quiz: Deviance, Crime and Social Control

1 D, | 2 B, | 3 A, | 4 B, | 5 C, | 6 A, | 7 B, | 8 A, | 9 D, | 10 B, | 11 A, | 12 C, | 13 A, | 14 C, | 15 A, | 16 B, | 17 D, | 18 D, [Return to Quiz]


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Introduction to Sociology – 3rd Canadian Edition Copyright © 2023 by William Little is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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