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Shifts in Understanding Deviance Essay

In order to provide adequate definition of the term ‘deviance’, it is necessary to understand the nature of this phenomenon. There is an assumption that deviant individuals are minority groups whose moral norms and behaviors differ from the ones accepted in the society in general.

At this point, the concept can refer to the individuals who violate norms and values that are typical of society. Such a perspective can also imply considering marginal groups whose religious and philosophical beliefs do not coincide with the ones upheld in the community.

In fact, there is no unanimous opinion concerning what and who is deviant because social norms have been changing in the course of time. I agree with the idea that deviance is more associated with violation of social norms that are factually and generally accepted in society, including laws and morale. Therefore, people who oppose these norms can be considered deviant members of society.

Society should not regard people as deviant by relying on personal subjective opinion only. For instance, some might believe that vegetarians belong to the deviant groups because they dietary habits differ much from those accepted among the majority of people.

My personal understanding of deviance previously referred to the idea that deviant people originated from sub-cultural groups, including representatives of hippies who were popular in the 70s or hipsters, advanced adults and teenagers whose lifestyle is associated with liberal political views, independent music, and deviant fashion sensibility.

Such an assumption seems to be justified once it relies solely on dictionary definition of deviance, according to which it is the group of people or a set of assumption that move beyond the accepted norms. However, my personal understanding is only one side of the medal, which might deviate from those introduced by the majority.

The existence of contradictory definitions is explained by the absence of objectively accepted terms that are widely used in society. Therefore, older definitions fail to construct the concept of objectivity; rather, they were closer to subjective realm. The distinction between objective and subjective views on deviance should be created to define the salient characteristics of the phenomenon.

In this respect, the objective views on deviance are confined to the availability of certain characteristics that are either different or similar to the accepted ones. In contrast, subjective opinion implies that there is no unanimous assumption concerning who and what is deviant in Canadian society unless someone establishes the criteria. Despite the presence of opposite angles of discussion, both views are necessary to grasp the width of the definition.

In order to decide which side of debate is more reasonable, specific attention should be given to the nature of the concept. Thus, if deviance is regarded as an act, it is more purposeful to refer to an objective evaluation. In this respect, such aspects as harm and actions violating law can be considered deviant. I agree that people who are inclined to exercise violence against other people are deviant because they are not able to successfully interact in a social environment.

Regardless of the constantly changing social norms, violent acts still refer to the deviant measures, along with criminals who commit murders and other outlaw actions. At the same time, considering criminology in a broader sense moves beyond the definition of deviant due to the existence of various contexts and environments undermining its meaning. This is of particular concern to the distinction between belief systems and world’s view.

The norms practiced in society are still a sequence of individual opinions, which imply that not all individuals uphold a specific idea. However, they could not be regarded as deviant because of their opinion being different from the majority because there are many other groups in which this viewpoint could be accepted.

Diverse social reactions also contribute to the shifts in understanding the terms. I used to believe that social reaction was decisive in shaping the opinion of the majority. However, further analysis of historic facts has revealed that the representation of social opinion influences perception of moral and legal principles exercised in Canadian community.

One the one hand, legislature could be considered as an absolute tool for regulating behavior and actions of individuals. On the other hand, Bereska (2010) believes that legal institutions are often used as controlling mechanisms for governments to impose its political and social influence.

With regard to these judgments, I have realized that deviation can only be defined in a certain concext; it is not a universal term that can be employed in all environments. Understanding law as the view shaped by social consensus already implies that the deviance is perceived through subjective prism (Bereska, 2011).

There is also a conflict view on deviance that supports the ideas of using laws as a means of controlling the interests of the dominating class. For instance, people from elite classes are less likely to be accused of various crimes. However, this vision is premised on contemporary subjective deviance rather than on dominant moral codes, which are crucial for defining what or who is deviant.

Due to the fact that there are several levels of social constructions, subjectivity forms an integral part of social organization. Therefore, it is impossible to assert that objective viewpoint is fully justified. The created dichotomy still relies on the common features and principles in identifying deviant objects and individuals.

There is a concept of normative violation which produces characteristics of deviants. Despite this definition, the fact of recognizing the phenomon should be carried by important and influential people is unjustified because their opinions could also be subjective, particularly when these people ignore moral codes and legislature. Shifts in definitions, therefore, are more associated with the diverse assumptions accepted among subjective and objective specialists.

The contemporary study of deviance is extremely sophisticated due to a plethora of aspects, definitions, objects, and criteria engaged into the discussion. In particular, to recognize an individual as a deviant, one should refer to specific context in which this deviant acts.

Consequently, analysis of social processes is of primary importance for making accurate assumptions. Therefore, social typing based largely on contemporary subjective opinions could not be justified because they rely only on the norms accepted by a specific group. In contrast, objective orientation seems to be more consistent because it provides definition of deviance in a much broader sense.

In conclusion, the concept of deviance could not be discussed within the context of dictionary definition only due to the existence of various contexts and environments that influence its transformation. Understanding deviations in Canadian societies has also influenced my vision on what and who is deviant. I have also realized that the definition might change across time, as societal norms change. Finally, the term should relate to marginal concepts, but to the aspect that concern the central issues in society.


Bereska, T. M. (2011). Deviance, Conformity, and Social Control in Canada. Canada: Pearson Education.

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1. IvyPanda. "Shifts in Understanding Deviance." December 13, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/shifts-in-understanding-deviance/.


IvyPanda. "Shifts in Understanding Deviance." December 13, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/shifts-in-understanding-deviance/.


IvyPanda. 2018. "Shifts in Understanding Deviance." December 13, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/shifts-in-understanding-deviance/.


IvyPanda. (2018) 'Shifts in Understanding Deviance'. 13 December.

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