Crime and deviance
This essay seeks to interrogate the assertion that ‘deviance like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’, the construction of crime and deviance being the basis of the argument. The aforementioned assertion means that deviance is relative, vis-a-vis what some people consider normal others consider deviant and vice versa. According to Schaefer(2010) deviant behavior that violates social norms. Henslin (1998) explicitly defines deviance as all violations of social rules regardless of their seriousness whilst crime is the violation of codified laws.
Hence the difference of cultures and norms between societies, groups, classes bring difference in societal expectations. Other scholars are of the view that crime and deviance emanate from social reaction, strain caused by the society, social transformation and interaction just to mention a few. Conversely some scholars avow that it is rather biological and psychological factors. Therefore this essay will delve into their all these matters. To begin with, deviance is not based on the act but on the reaction to that act.
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It is a matter of definitions, where the same act is interpreted differently by two parties. Behaviors must be viewed from the frame work of the culture they take place. According to Sutherland human beings learn how to behave in a social situation whether properly or improperly Schaeffer (2010) . According to this theory , people learn to deviate or conform to societal norms due to association, thus through social interaction, interacting with his or her immediate environment. For example, family plays an important role in a young person’s life and has a major influence on delinquency.
Parents are likely to exert the most influence on the child’s perception of himself or herself Ramsar (1996). Positive responses from the parents , such as love and warmth contribute to positive self image. On the other hand , negative responses such as lack of warmth and parental love contribute to the child’s, self image negatively . Such a child is more susceptible to the influences of delinquent groups and to deviant behavior. The statistics found by Beck, Kline et al(1988) showed that families involved in crime set their children on a lawbreaking path.
Horowitz (1983,1987) noticed how young man in the lower class Chicano neighborhood in Chicago fought a lot to protect their honor, of which to many societies it is violence. The behavior of such ‘deviant’ individuals to them is normal due to acclimatization to such behavior but to the mainstream society it is wrong. Symbolic Interactionists say that people produce their own orientations to life the choice of membership, differential association, helps shape an individual. Therefore this cements the notion that ‘deviance lies in the eyes of the beholder’.
Furthermore, people are shown to have the ability to make choices hence if one turns to a deviant behavior they find solace in such acts. Reckless (1973) developed the control theory that stresses that two control systems work against our motivations to deviate. Inner controls, which include an individual’s internalized morality and conscience, are against the outer controls which consists of groups or individuals, such as family; friends and the police, who influence us not to deviate. Hirschi (1969) notes that the more that people feel bonds with society the more effective their inner controls are.
This can all be summarized as self-control which can be learnt through socialization. However people of the lower class are bound to have a lesser bond with society hence in so doing they try to better their living conditions through any means possible thus they deviate from societal ways or norms. However it would be anecdotal to conclude with fingers just pointing at the lower class individual for there is also white collar crime by people of higher classes hence most if not everyone in society has a deviant characteristic. It is then a matter of say putting to scale the acts of deviance to find the better ones.
Therefore ‘deviance like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’. In addition, the labeling theory of Lemert argues that, social reaction to deviance can result labeling effects that amplify the importance of the original violation, thus leading to more deviance. This process according to Ramsar ( 1996) entrench the delinquent in a career trajectory that leads to greater rather than less involvement in the offensive behavior, not least because options to engage in non-offensive behaviors are closed off, while attributes, qualities and skills in relation to the law or norm violation behavior are enhanced.
Thus, social construction of crime, through its amplification by social reaction can produce the real consequences of career criminals or deviants as the offenders become engulfed in copying with the stigma of a deviant individuality that ultimately might lead to his or her embrace of that socially constructed identity. Chambliss (1997) postulates on the power of labeling, on his the study of students with the same deviant behavior but from different classes. The saints where from the upper and middle class. The roughnecks where from the low class.
The saints where seen by the teachers, police and other people as headed for success and the rough necks headed for trouble. Being labeled a deviant can lock people out of conforming groups and force them into exclusive contact with people with similar labels hence self fulfillment takes place. The recent presidential amnesty in Zimbabwe is an example of this, as seventeen of the pardoned inmates have been convicted again. Furthermore, Functionalist argue that society is bigger than an individual, hence society constructs norms and values which act as guide lines to control individuals Schaefer (2010).
Deviance is defined by societal institutions whose values differ across societies. This view clearly shows that society constructs deviance the Zimbabwean society being a typical example. The society forbids homosexuals, it is a criminal offence to commit such an act . Thus, an individual is powerless and has no alternative but to uphold to the value . It is also of great importance to note that this is not always the case since some individuals may deviate from the societal expectation .
Therefore, from the argument prospered by functionalist theory it is evident to note that crime is constructed socially since society constructs guidelines and norms to control individuals. However the relativity of deviance is shown by how the Zimbabwean society opposes homosexuality but in some western societies it is legal for instance the United States of America. In addition, social transformation, which according to Durkheim brings anomie, also constructs deviance and crime. This transformation means the breakdown of the old orders and it may leave a void with regard to norms, values to norms and social control Glanz (1996).
Such a state maybe compared to a condition of anomie or lack of norms thereby compromising social order. This view is supported by the breakdown of order which transpired in the Arab nations of Libya and Egypt recently where old order or regimes of Gaddafi and Mubarak were toppled leading to the void of norms and values in these countries . This void led to people committing crime like shooting, killings, looting and arbitrary arrest. To the individuals such actions are an attempt to relate to the changes in as much as they hinder social stability. In the same vein, the strain theory by Merton (1956, 1968) also supports the
Assertion that crime is socially constructed. He opines that societies have set cultural goals such as wealth and high status and institutionalized means of achieving the goals, for example through education, honesty and hard work. However life chances are less for the people from the lower class for they cannot access education to its fullest therefore the goal is still the same but the means are different as they resort to pragmatic means ,drug selling; prostitution inter alia. Chaotic society causes strain which leads to delinquency and crime (UNISA,2010).
In South Africa factors such as inadequate education , unemployment and poverty have been identify as elements which contribute to strain in society. For instance, in South Africa the labor force survey of September 2007 estimated high levels of unemployment at 45% . People who live in rural areas can still survive on the produce of the land , but in the urban areas this is impossible. In such circumstances people deviate from the set ways of living, so as to get income . Young people are more prone to the pressure exerted by criminal gangs and organized crime.
To the individuals this is all normal and for survival but it is deemed deviant by the mainstream society. Thenceforth it can be noted that ‘deviance like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’. Marxists propound that rules and regulations are created by the upper class so as to maintain status quo . The upper class owes such power to their control and ownership of the means of production. This view is relevant and logical because crime and deviance are a negotiation between the actors and those that control society therefore an act is deviant if those with power say it is and it remains as so until they say it is not.
In Zimbabwe people vote for the constitution but the parliament sits to approve what will be taken into the constitution. The parliamentarians are part of the elite in society and they make decisions that serve the interest of the elite. It is the same with the movements of the Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe that homosexuality will remain illegal and a taboo until the elite want it legalized, this is at a smaller scale.
The issues between the western countries and Zimbabwe on the legalizing of homosexuality also show the power dynamics catalyzed by globalization, where the world is now one large society; hence the power countries try to exercise their power by defining what is wrong and write. Whereas due to different values in the social institutions societies have to differ when relating to deviance. It is only on acts that impinge humanity that most societies concur to deviance, murder being an example. Therefore in relation to Marxists deviance is in the eyes of those that have power. However, crime can also be biologically constructed .
Proponents of this school of thought like Lombroso (1911) cited in Henslin (1998) argue that crime and deviant behavior is constructed biologically . For instance people with large chins , big ears, those with epilepsy or those with an extra Y chromosome are capable enough to commit crime. A male may have a chromosome make up that makes him more feminine than male hence already deviating from societal expectations . According to UNISA(2010) on epileptic patient went berserk in the casualty department of the settlers hospital in Grahamstawn and killed two patients and injuring two .
This example clearly shows that people can be deviant as a result of biological factors which stems from genetic predisposition which activates biological circuits and release of various chemicals and hormones. Deviance may be unknown to the individual if inborn or biological hence not being accepted by the society at large only outlaws the individual and may be torturous. Therefore ‘deviance like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’ and should not be judgmentally approached.
In view of the foregoing argument, it can be argued that ‘deviance like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’ as crime and deviance is mainly socially constructed. This essay has clearly shown how the depiction of deviance is as a result of different perspectives; these perspectives are a result of societal norms and values. It is such differences that show the relativity of deviance. The writer however acknowledges the existence of deviant acts that are seen as deviant across cultures that are universal in a way, as explained by the above essay.