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Discuss the Role of Deviancy in Society

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In this essay the author will discuss the role of deviancy in society, both the positive and negative aspects. The concept of deviancy includes two elements; labeling and cultural norms. The definition of deviancy is as follows; "the labeling of the violation of cultural norms" (Giddens, 1998).

There are a variety of activities which can be classified as deviant. Shoplifting, joyriding, vandalism, drugs, violence. All of these fall under the category of negative deviance. This means they are activities that are outside the societal norm and the people who partake in these activities should be prosecuted. This is why rules are made, to maintain order within a society. And when the rules are broken the offenders are punished.

Deviancy is stereotyped into being associated with the lower class, with vandalism and crime. However deviancy can be found in any institution which implements rules, no matter what level of society the person's background is. It can be found in classrooms of young children, or in offices of society's most upper class business. However what if being deviant resulted in positive outcomes? What if the rules were broken for all the right reasons? What if the deviancy became the norm?

Taking a look back in history some of the most prominent history figures were deviants. In this essay the author is going to focus on the figures of the Civil Rights Movement. Had Rosa Parks adhered to the rules of the Montgomery Bus route, would segregation in Montgomery Alabama still exist today? There is no definitive answer to that question as Ms. Parks did not adhere to the rules. She deviated from the societal norm and chose to remain seated in the 'whites only' section of that bus. In doing so, she managed to change the cultural norm of a nation. This began the Civil Rights Movement in America.

As a result of her deviance, and with the help of Martin Luther King, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) along with many other prominent figures, Ms. Parks managed to change the outlook of a nation. Other such deviance in history have included the Women's Suffrage Movement, the Gay Rights Movement and many others including our own 1916 Rising which lead to Irish independence. This leads us to question, without deviancy how do we progress as a society?

Deviancy can also be defined as non conformity to a given set of norms that are accepted by a significant number of people in a society or a community (Giddens 2001). Therefore it is important to consider an individual's cultural norm when labeling them as deviant, just as it is important to remember a society's cultural norm that is not your own. For example in Thailand there are a number of cultural norms to keep in mind such as; never touch another Thai person's head, never show the soles of your feet, and never show public displays of affection.

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