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Symbolic Interactionist Perspective

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1 Symbolic Interactionist Perspective
Association, Reaction and Interpretation

2 How is this perspective different?
Both the functionalist and conflict perspective portrays deviance as a product of society Symbolic Interactionists see deviance as a process of interaction between supposed deviants and the rest of society

3 Differential Association Theory
Edwin Sutherland- Deviance is learned through interactions with other people. Learn how to perform these acts but also how to define these actions Someone is likely to become deviant if engaged in differential association- process of acquiring, through interactions with others an “excess of definitions favorable to violation of law over definitions unfavorable to violation of law”

4 Differential Association- Example
Father tells child “it is ok to steal when you’re poor” Giving a prodeviant definition Father tells child “it is wrong to steal” Giving an antideviant definition If the child picks up more prodeviant definitions, they are likely to become deviant

5 The importance of social interaction
This is the source of the definitions of deviance Deviance will arise if interactions with those who define deviant behavior positively outweigh interactions with those who define it negatively

6 How Sutherland explains crimes:
Theory explains various forms of deviance, including white collar crime (tax evasion, embezzlement, and price fixing) Deviant acts were shown to result from some association with groups that viewed the wrongdoings acceptable Most people however cannot identify the persons from whom they learned prodeviant or antideviant defintions.

7 Labeling Theory Concentrates on the societal reaction to rule violation and the impact of this reaction on the rule violator Society reacts to a rule-breaking act by labeling it as deviant Deviance is then not something a person does but a label imposed on that behavior According to Howard Becker, the deviant is one to whom that label has successfully been applied

8 The deviant label The label itself has serious negative consequences for the individual beyond any immediate punishment Once a person has been labeled a delinquent, he/she may be stuck with that label for life and may be rejected and isolated as a result Finding a job and making friends may be difficult Person may come to accept the label and commit more deviant acts

9 Labeling explanations
Frank Tannenbaum: Children may break windows, annoy people, steal, and play hooky and innocently consider these activities just a way of having fun Edwin Lemert: coined the term primary deviance- refers to these violations of norms that a person commits for the first time and without considering then deviant

10 The influence of labels
Suppose parents, teachers, and police consider a child’s prank as a sign of delinquency May dramatize it and scold the child May go further, hauling the child into juvenile detention and labeling the child as bad, a delinquent. Child may develop a bad self-image and try to live up to this image and become more deviant Lemert used the term secondary deviance to refer to such repeated norm violations

11 Phenomenological Theory
To really understand deviance, phenomenologists say we must study people’s subjective interpretations of their own deviant experiences Deviants tend to see themselves and their deviance in some positive way and they behave accordingly

12 Phenomenological theory example: Agnes
Study done by Harold Garfinkel Agnes was a hermaphrodite (person with both male and female sex organs) Raised a boy until high school, developed an attractive female figure, dropped out of school, left home and tried to make a new life as a woman A year later, she went to UCLA medical center to request a sex-change operation

13 Agnes Garfinkel found that Agnes saw herself as a normal woman and that she had a physical defect and like any other person w/ a deformity, she wanted it removed Her self-concept as a normal woman caused her to make sure that others wouldn’t suspect her of having the male organ-never undressed in her female roommate’s presence

14 So how does this relate???? Jack Katz, in an analysis of murderers, robbers and other criminals found a similarly positive self-perception that conflicts with society’s negative view of the deviant Murderers tend to see themselves as morally superior to their victims If the victim humiliated the murderer, killing them was justifiable way of defending their identity, dignity or respectability

15 How is this theory useful?
Useful for understanding the subjective world of deviants However, its doubtful that deviants have positive views of themselves and their deviance

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