The criminal justice system has been important in defining, explaining and controlling behaviors understood as deviant. Discuss two sociological responses to concepts of criminal deviance.

Essay by kirstin89 August 2007

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Criminal deviance in a post-modern society refers to the notion of nonconformity of members of a particular society (van Krieken R. et al., Sociology: Themes and Perspectives, 2000). Deviance is considered to be a result of biological problems and the socialization process, though the functionalist theory of deviance and the anomie of strain theory both explain the cause of deviance in relation to social class, sub culture and ethnicity when set within an appropriate societal context and values framework (L. DeFleur M. et al., Sociology: Human Society, 1973).

Merton's Anomie of Strain theory devised in 1938 hypothesized that deviant behavior is the result of a "disjunction between culturally defined goals to which most members of society aspire, and.....legitimate means for achieving the goals". Thus socially provoked tensions causes deviant behavior (Social Structure and Anomie, 1957). The main argument of this theory is that individuals of lower socioeconomic status are more likely to engage in deviant behavior than socioeconomically advantaged members of society because they have less access to achieving goals (van Krieken R.

et al., Sociology: Themes and Perspectives, 2000). Though limitations to this theory are that the act of deviance is considered only in terms of poverty and alienation and hence fails to explain why other members of society commit acts of deviance.

Alternatively, the integrationist theory regards deviance as an outcome of the labeling interaction process occurring between people (Clinard M, Sociology of Deviant Behavior, 1963). Thus "deviance...... is a consequence of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an offender"(Becker, 1963 cited in Blackwell Synergy - Br J Sociology Page 191). Becker argued that there is no such thing as an intrinsically deviant act until so perceived by others and labeled as such (van Krieken R. et al., Sociology: Themes and Perspectives, 2000). This...