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Deviance & Deviants

A Sociological Approach

William E. Thompson and Jennifer C. Gibbs

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Too often, people are led to believe that society’s norms are clearly defined, rigidly enforced, and arbitrarily followed or broken. Mass media and social media often reinforce these ideas and portray those who are labeled as deviant as being individuals who are somehow inherently different from the rest of us – social misfits, perhaps mentally, or at least morally, impaired. Indeed, some people are comforted by the notion that the world is dichotomous and can be neatly divided into good and bad, right and wrong, conformity and deviance. Because many people are curious as to what makes deviants “tick,” there is a tendency for definitions of deviance and deviants to take an individualistic and pathological approach emphasizing the uniqueness of those who violate society’s folkways, mores, and laws. The first wisdom of sociology, however, and the guiding principle for this book is: things are not what they seem (Berger, 1963). While acknowledging the uniqueness of individuals, Deviance & Deviants: A Sociological Approach insists that the study of deviance is not, as has been suggested, merely the study of “nuts, sluts, and preverts” (sic) (Liazos, 1972). Instead, this book places norm violation in a much broader sociological context and explores how both deviance (norm violating behaviors) and deviants (those believed to have committed those behaviors) are socially constructed and socially defined.

Some of the special features of this book include:

  • Taking both a macro‐level and micro‐level approach to norm violating behavior, looking at how norms are socially constructed, socially defined, and socially sanctioned.
  • Exploring how deviance becomes part of a person’s social and personal identity.
  • Looking at some of the popular notions and pseudoscientific explanations for deviance and debunking many of the myths that surround deviance and deviants.
  • Providing sociological explanations for deviance based on solid social scientific research.
  • Exploring areas of deviance sometimes overlooked by other books on the subject, such as deviant occupations, sexual deviance, extreme deviance, elite deviance, and cyberdeviance.
  • Beginning each chapter with specific learning outcomes and ending with critical thinking questions designed to assess those outcomes.
  • A subheading in each chapter that focuses on the media and how they help construct, define, and redefine that particular topic related to deviance.
  • In each chapter, a box entitled “In Their Own Words” in which people who have been labeled as deviant provide their viewpoint on the particular subject of that chapter.
  • Key terms and concepts appear in boldface type followed by italicized definitions. These key terms are listed in alphabetical order at the end of each chapter and again in a comprehensive glossary at the end of the book.

We invite you to open your minds as you open your books and explore the fascinating world of social deviance and social deviants. Apply your critical thinking skills as you read, asking questions and questioning answers.

About the Companion Website

This book is accompanied by a companion website:

The Deviance & Deviants: A Sociological Approach companion website features resources created by Christopher Michael Haraszkiewicz to help you use this book in university courses, whether you’re an instructor or a student.

For Instructors

  • Activity and project ideas
  • Chapter outlines
  • PowerPoint slides
  • Test bank

For Students

  • Study guide