Society's Definition of Deviance

Published: 2021-06-29 07:11:23
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Category: Social Issues

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It is apparent that values in society continuously change and adapt over time. Deviance, which is defined by these values, also changes over time. Since the definition of deviance varies, the groups labeled deviant will also change in time. Generally, the powerful, the individuals who are part of the majority of the population, as well as agencies that we perceive as moral such as law enforcement, are the least stigmatized groups in society. The most stigmatized groups are the mentally handicapped and members of the transgender community where the degree of stigmatization is dependent on their mental capacity and whether or not their actions or beliefs are voluntary.

Deviance is an idea that is dependent on society's values in a particular period of time. Since society's values change over time, the definition of what is or is not deviant will alter over time. Since the idea of deviance is dependent on the values of the majority of society, the majority is less stigmatized. As well, individuals in a position of power are also less stigmatized since their interests must be satisfied for economic benefit. In general, society is rational and usually holds those with less mental capacity less responsible for any deviant behavior. Similarly, society holds those with less physical ability less responsible than the physically able.
For many years, homosexual individuals were subject to as much discrimination as the transgender community. Over time, however, society has become more open to different ideas including homosexuality. Twenty years ago, a television show or commercial that included homosexuality or dared to praise it was subject to much criticism. Now we are able to see gay and lesbian ideas all over the media such as racy music videos. It is now a source of pride to stand up for the gay community and to raise awareness to prevent discrimination. Topics of legalizing gay marriage are appearing in many headlines all over the world, and many provinces and states have already given homosexual individuals the right to marriage. As Gomme (2007) notes, "Definitions of what is deviant vary not only across societies and subcultures, but over time as well" (p. 8). What society believes is deviant behavior at one point in time will change as its values change.
Since what is considered deviant behavior changes over time depending on the current values of society, it is the group of individuals who hold the majority within our society that determine what is or is not acceptable behavior. This influential group tends to be the individuals who hold the most power in society. This idea is in line with the consensus approach which "envisages law as effectively mediating between the vested and competing interest of society's rival factions" (p. 11). This means that autonomous governments will enact laws that serve the majority of its population. Typically, the majority of the population with similar values and beliefs are the middle and upper class members of society, and they are considered less deviant since they are conforming groups.

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