Values and Norms of Society: Conformity, Conflict and Deviation in Norms!
The society at times appears to be chaotic, as when a mob riots, or when there is a hysterical rush from an impending crisis: but soon order is restored and the society gets going.
Indeed order rather than disorder is the rule of the world. Social order as it is called is obtained through regulation of human behaviour according to certain standards.
All societies provide for these standards specifying appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. The standards which regulate behaviour have been termed social norms. The concept of norms is a central one in sociology.
Meaning of Values:
In sociology our concern is with social values. Social values are cultural standards that indicate the general good deemed desirable for organised social life. These are assumptions o what is right and important for society. They provide the ultimate meaning and legitimacy for social arrangements and social behaviour. They are the abstract sentiments or ideals. An example of an important social value is, “equality of opportunity”. It is widely considered to be a desirable end in itself.
The importance of such a value in social life can hardly be exaggerated. A social value differs from individual value. An individual value is enjoyed or sought by the individual which a man seeks for himself. Even though these values are commonly shared, they do not become social values. As distinct from individual values, a social value contains a concern for others’ welfare. Social values are organised within the personality of the individuals. They regulate his thinking and behaving.
The process of socialization aims to include these values in his personality, the ethos or fundamental characteristics of any culture are a reflection of its basic values. Thus if the American culture is dominated by a belief in material progress, the Indian culture is marked by spiritualism, the forgetting of self, abandonment of personal desire and elimination of the ambition. The “Indian way” is different from the “American way”.
The differences in social values result in divergent social structures and patterns of expected behaviour.
Meaning of Norms:
Norms are standards of group behaviour:
An essential characteristic of group life is that it is possessed of a set of values which regulate the behaviour of individual members. As we have seen already, groups do not drop out of the blue with stabilized relationships among members. Groups are the products of interaction among individuals.
When a number of individuals interact, a set of standards develop that regulate their relationships and modes of behaviour. These standards of group behaviour are called social norms. That brothers and sisters should not have sexual relations; a child should defer to his parents and an uncle should not joke with his nephews and nieces are the illustrations of norms which govern relationships among kinsmen.
Norms incorporate value judgements:
Secord and Buckman say “A norm is a standard of behavioural expectation shared by group members against which the validity of perceptions is judged and the appropriateness of feeling and behaviour is evaluated.”Members of a group exhibit certain regularities in their behaviour.
This behaviour is considered desirable by the group. Such regularities in behaviour have been explained in terms of social norms. Norm, in popular usage, means a standard. In sociology our concern is with social norms, that is, norms accepted in a group. They represent “standardized generalizations” concerning expected modes of behaviour.
As standardized generalizations they are concepts which have been evaluated by the group and incorporate value judgements. Thus it may be said that norms are based on social values which are justified by moral standards or aesthetic judgment. A norm is a pattern setting limits on individual behaviour. As defined by Broom and Selznick, ‘The norms are blueprints for behaviour setting limits within which individuals may seek alternate ways to achieve their goals.”Norms do not refer to an average or central tendency of human beings.
They denote expected behaviour, or even ideal behaviour. Moral values are attached to them. They are model practices. They set out the normative order of the group.
Norms are related to factual world:
It may not, however, be presumed that norms are abstract representing imaginary construct. Sociologists are interested mainly in “operative” norms, that is, norms that are sanctioned in such a way that violators suffer penalties in the group. For example, most of the norms of the Sermon on the Mount, although often referred to as norms, are not sanctioned; one is not punished sociality for refusing to “turn the other cheek”.
Norms in order to be effective must represent correctly the relations between real events. They must take into account the factual situation. A rule requiring all men to have two wives would be valueless if the sex ratio did not permit. Therefore, the normative system, since it is meant to achieve results in the factual world, should be related to the events in the real world.
Importance of Norms:
A normless society is impossibility:
Norms are of great importance to society. It is impossible to imagine a normless society, because without norms behaviour would be unpredictable. The standards of behaviour contained in the norms give order to social relation interaction goes smoothly if the individuals follow the group norms. The normative order makes the factual order of human society possible.
If there were no normative order there could be no human society. Man needs a normative order to live in society because human organism is not sufficiently comprehensive or integrated to give automatic responses that are functionally adequate for society.
Man is incapable of existing alone. His dependence on society is not derived from fixed innate responses to mechanical social stimuli but rather from learned responses to meaningful stimuli. Hence his dependence on society is ultimately a dependence upon a normative order.
Norms give cohesion to society:
We can hardly think of a human group apart from norms. A group without norms would be to use the words of Hobbes, “Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” The human organism in order to maintain itself must live in a normatively regulated social system. The normative system gives to society a cohesion without which social life is not possible. Those groups which cannot evolve a normative order and maintain normative control over their members fail to survive because of the lack of internal co-operation.
Norms influence individual’s attitudes:
Norms influence an individual’s attitudes and his motives. They impinge directly upon a person’s self-conception. They are specific demands to act made by his group. They are much more stable. They have the power to silence any previously accepted abstract sentiment which they may oppose. They take precedence over abstract sentiments. Becoming a member of a group implies forming attitudes in relation to group norms. The individual becomes a good member to the extent he abides by the norms.
The norms determine and guide his intuitive judgments of others and his intuitive judgments of himself. They lead lo the phenomena of conscience, of guide feelings, of elation and depression. They are deeper than consciousness. Becoming a member of guilt consists of internalizing the norms of the group. Through internalization they become a part of himself automatically expressed in his behaviour.
Conformity of Norms:
Norms are not formed by all groups in relation to every kind of behaviour and every possible situation. They are formed in matters of consequence to a particular group. What matters are of consequence to a group depends upon the main purposes and goals of the group, the relationship of that group to other groups, and other conditions in which it operates.
Likewise, the scope of behaviour regulated by norms varies considerably in different groups. For example, the norms of some groups may pertain chiefly to ethical matters, while the norms of other groups may cover a broader area of life including dress, forms of entertainment, education and so on.
Further, a social norm operative in one social system may not be operative in another. Thus, Mohammedan societies permit polygyny, but Christian ones do not. Likewise norms do not apply equally to all members of a society or to all situations.
They are adjusted to the position people hold in the society and to the occupations they practise. Thus what is proper for a woman is not always proper for a man, or what is proper for a doctor may not be proper for a teacher. Thus conformity to norms is always qualified in view of the socially defined situations in which they apply.
A norm by definition implies a sense of obligation. It lays down a standard of behaviour which one ought to follow. Many of the problems of personality as well as society are mostly the problems of non-conformity to norms. Conformity to norms is normal.
The individual having internalized the norms, feels something like a need to conform. His conscience would bother him if he did not. Further people would disapprove his action if he violates the norm. Thus both internalized need and external sanctions play an effective role in bringing about conformity to norms.
The violators of norms suffer the following kinds of sanctions:
(i) Violators of norms suffer loss of prestige:
(ii) Violators are subjected to ridicule, fines, imprisonment.
By contrast, those who conform to norms enjoy the expected co- operation from others, maintain good prestige in the group and receive positive rewards such as praise, bonuses and promotions.
Three questions have been posed in regard to conformity of norms:
(i) Why are some behaviours and attitudes subjected to normative controls and others are not?
(ii) Why is much conformity to norms found in some groups than in others?
(iii) Why some members of a group conform more closely to norms than others?
These three questions deal respectively with focus, extent and distribution of conformity to norms.
Why some behaviours and attitudes subjected to normative control and others are are not? As we have already seen people form groups to satisfy a variety of needs. Normative controls arise in the areas of behaviour where members have become more dependent for the satisfaction of their needs. These norms encourage behaviour that ensures maximum satisfaction of these needs and discourage behaviour that might interfere with satisfaction.
As remarked earlier, it is only in relation to matters of consequence that norms are formed. Matters of consequence are generally those that contribute to accomplishment of the group purposes. Thus norms develop in relation to those matters which are relevant to group goals. It is the necessity for successfully achieving group goals which leads to the formation of norms.
Secondly, the needs whose satisfaction is necessary for socio- emotional satisfaction also lead to the formation of norms. These needs are, for example, the needs for friendship and love, for opportunities to share one’s triumphs and defeats and for belonging, acceptance and support. In the family norms arise to ensure fair treatment and to prohibit competition and aggression. Thus, there are norms regarding the behaviour of the children towards their parents, the relations of brothers and sisters, wife and husband, father and son.
It may also be referred that one’s public behaviour is compelled by norms to a greater extent than one’s private behaviour or beliefs because while public acts are open to surveillance, private behaviour is not. Where sanctions cannot be applied, norms generally do not arise.
Why is much conformity to norms found in some groups than in others? According to Festinager, Schachter and Back, the extent to which a group can secure conformity to its norms depends upon the cohesiveness of the group—the forces which hold a member to stay on in the group.
Members are attracted to the group because:
(i) High reward-cost outcomes stem directly from the interaction between members,
(ii) Group activities are rewarding for their sake,
(iii) Membership in the group serves as a mean to attaining other ends.
The cohesiveness of a group also depends on the alternatives available outside the group. Some groups are able to impose severe sanctions upon its members because the members have no alternatives or because they can command little respect in alternatives. Thus forced they continue to be the members of the group and conform to its norms. Members of a caste, because they are often not accepted in other castes have few alternative sources of satisfaction.
Consequently the caste may very effectively control its members through such techniques as ostracism should they deviate from caste norms. Likewise in primitive and rural comp unities conformity to norms is more prevalent than in urban community. Thus the more cohesive a group is, the more uniform would be the attitudes and behaviour of its members and the more their conformity to the norms.
Further in groups where satisfaction of socio-emotional needs is dominant or where the tasks themselves are enjoyable, conformity is likely to be high. Thus when the tasks to be performed are during, fatiguing or dangerous, conformity will be low, unless the costs of non-conformity are correspondingly high. In situations where sanctions for non-conformity are weak the level of conformity also may be low.
Conformity to norms also depends upon surveillance and sanctions. Unless behaviour is monitored and sanctions are imposed for failure to conform, the desired behaviour is unlikely to occur. Supervision of examination and disqualification of an examinee is necessary to check cheating in the examination. Under conditions of low supervision there is more cheating. In a factory the foreman maintains surveillance over the workers to ensure a minimum interruption of work.
In a group where members feel that they were moderately accepted by other members of the group and that they had the possibility of becoming completely accepted, a high degree of conformity to the norms is to occur. Likewise the members who feel that they have a low degree of acceptance and are likely to be rejected by the group will clearly conform less to the norms.
Why some members of a group conform more closely to norms than others? It is seen that members of the same group conform to norms in varying degrees. Many a factor explain this phenomenon. Firstly, those members who have important satisfactions outside the group will frequently deviate from the norms than those who do not have such satisfactions.
Similarly, members who do not find much satisfaction in the group will also deviate from the norms. Secondly, conformity to norms will differ according to the varying pressure exerted upon different persons in the group. Pressure is exercised because the deviant behaviour has reduced the rewards and increased the costs of other members.
Thirdly, conformity lo norms differs according to the member’s susceptibility to pressures. It has been seen that in a group where members are more submissive, low in self-confidence, less inclined to nervous tension, more authoritarian, less intelligent, less original, low in need achievement, high in need for social approval and conventional in values, there is more conformity to norms than in a group whose members vary markedly in these characteristics. Fourthly, the higher the status of a person the more likely he is to conform to norms.
The leaders conform to norms more closely than others because of their central role in the group. As leaders they are supposed to represent group norms, not their own desires. But it is also the role of the leader to introduce changes in the norms.
Though it may involve deviation from group norms, on the pari of the leader, it is at the same Lime conformity to the expectations the group has towards his role. A leader is often both a conformist and a deviate. Fifthly, some members conform to the norms not only because it leads to the accomplishment of group goals but also because it satisfies certain of their needs for example, the needs of friendship and recognition.
Lastly, the degree of conformity lo norms on the pari of an individual is determined by the extent to which he exposes himself to public view. Persons with high status positions are more exposed to public view and hence feel strong pressures to conform to norms. Fear of lowered prestige is, for most people, a stronger motive than desire for higher prestige.
Regarding conformity to norms three more points may also be seen. Firstly, a norm need not be carried out lo the letter in order to influence behaviour. It is a mistake to suppose that absolute fidelity to norms is essential to society. Complete adherence would not only be impossible in the case of many norms but would be disadvantageous for the society.
Of course, it is a duly of an individual to conform to norms but in some particular situations a moderate rather than a maximum level of performance may achieve what the society needs. Secondly, some norms may set such a high level for desirable conduct that average behaviour of members could approach it only at exceptional levels. Many norms do not become internalized. Many of them do not even become habitual, and some of them are, not even obeyed.
Thirdly in modern differentiated groups, the degree for conformity Lo norms is affected by the fact that members frequently belong to a number of groups. These various groups may have conflicting norms. Therefore, the degree of conformity lo norms may be in part a function of the extent to which norms of the other groups are congruous with them.
Conflict in Norms:
Conformity to norms depends largely upon agreement as to what the norm demands. Without this agreement there would be a wide range of behaviour. As already seen norms are agreed upon standards of behaviour. Without such agreement, norms have a weaker force.
Further we have seen that norms differ from society to society and from group to group in the same society. It is obvious that norms do not apply equally to all members of all societies or to all members of a society. They are adjusted to the needs of a society and to the positions people hold in particular social orders or to the occupations they practise, etc. Since there are different norms for different groups, a conflict among them is inevitable.
While norms set limits to individual behaviour, variation in conformity is often permitted and exceptions also are provided for. Some norms are more specially stated than others; some have wide range of application than others; some permit individual interpretation to a greater extent than others.
There are reasons why norms are not followed without deviation:
(i) Some norms are perceived less important than others and so the less important ones are violated when one has to make a choice between two norms. In this case it may be said that strictly speaking there is conflict because the relative importance of the norms is clear.
(ii) Norms may so conflict with each other that an individual must disobey one if he is to conform to the other. A student who sees a friend cheating in an examination must choose between conflicting norms. One norm instructs him to be loyal to his friend while another instructs him to see that honesty is upheld.
(iii) An individual may deviate from a norm because he knows it is weakly enforced. Using college stationery for personal use, letter writing is rarely punished.
(iv) Some norms are not learned by all persons even in the same society. For example, there are wide differences in life styles, food habits and etiquette. „
Thus, though the normative element in society is millions of years old, yet it is not so old as to make the human organism completely passive in its conformity. The organism is still resistant to normative control. The students resist any such control over them by the authorities. The children resist the control by the parents. The conflict between organic resistance and social control is one of the unsolved problems of human life.
It may not, however, be supposed that individual resistance to norms necessarily threatens them or shakes the solidarity of the group. But when large numbers of people resist the norms and evade them for over long periods of time, they are weakened and group is shaken. However, some norms may be so important that they persist inspite of deviations.
We know that the norms regarding sex behaviour are often evaded but it is unlikely that these deviations will change the sex norms. Inspite of the fact that there are conflicts between norms and there are deviations from norms, they have, nevertheless, evolved as part of human society because they helped to satisfy the fundamental social and individual needs thus enabling societies and the human species to survive.
1. Meaning of Deviance:
An essential feature of social life is that it is possessed of a set of norms which regulate the behaviour of individual members. All societies provide for certain standards of human behaviour. These standards of behaviour, as we have seen earlier, are called norms. But no society completely succeeds in getting all its members to behave in accordance with the social norms.
Some of them fail to conform to these norms. Failure to conform to the customary norms of society is deviant behaviour or deviance. Thus deviant behaviour is any behaviour that fails to conform to some specified standard. Parsons defines deviance in two ways. Firstly, he defines it as “a motivated tendency for an actor to behave in contravention of one or more institutionalized normative patterns.” Secondly, he defines it as “the tendency on the part of one or more of the component actors to behave in such a way as to disturb the equilibrium of interactive process.” Deviant behaviour disturbs the social equilibrium.
It is contravention of the social norms. It is a departure from the usual modes of behaviour. It consists of disapproved activities. Cheating, unfairness, malingering, delinquency, immorality, dishonesty, betrayal, corruption, wickedness and sin are examples of deviant behaviour. The delinquent, the saint, the ascetic, the hippie, the leader, the miser all have deviated from conventional social norms.
Deviation is relative, not absolute. Deviation is relative to the prescriptions and anticipations that govern particular patterns of behaviour at specified times and places. Societies are undergoing continual change. Along with social change the social norms also change. What is considered as intolerable at one time, becomes a norm at another time.
Thus attitudes towards woman have changed dramatically over recent decades. Formerly women were not permitted to go out of the home. But today they work in the offices and recreate in the clubs. Thus what was once considered deviant behaviour; has now become the accepted standard of behaviour.
Further, norms differ from society to society. Thus what is considered deviant behaviour in one society may be considered the approved behaviour in another society. The Hindu society regards polygyny as deviant behaviour, but the Mohammedan society permits it.
The West permits free-mixing of sexes but the East does not approve it. The scope of behaviour regulated by norms varies considerably in different groups. The norms of some groups relate chiefly to ethical matters, while the norms of other groups may cover a wider area of life. Thus non-conformity to norms is always relative to the society.
Two strategies have been developed to decide who is deviant. According to the first strategy developed by Robert K. Merton and Talcott Parsons, deviant behaviour is conduct that objectively appears to violate a norm. According to the second strategy developed by Edwin M. Lemert and Howard S. Becker, deviant behaviour is conduct that is perceived by others as contrary to the norms. In the later conception, less attention is paid to abstract standards, and more attention is paid to the actual social definitions of conduct by members of social groups. A conduct is regarded as deviant because it is harmful and dysfunctional.
It may also be noted that deviant behaviour is usually related to specific situations. A person may be deviant in certain ways but may- be conformist in others. A sex deviant may be fairly conventional in dress, food habits and many other activities. He may be honest and industrious. Similarly a non-conformist who is regarded a fool at one time may be regarded a genius at another time.
The geniuses of all ages have suffered from the hostile attitude of the members of their communities. Socrates, Christ and Galileo suffered, who are now recognized as outstanding intellectuals of their time. It has been said that people are not completely conformist or completely deviant. A completely deviant person would find it difficult to stay alive in society. And nearly all normal people are occasionally deviant.
Most people have been guilty of deviant behaviour at one time or the other in one or the other respect. Nearly everyone in our society is deviant to some degree. Whether one is labelled as deviant depends upon the specific circumstances, attitudes, interests and tolerance limits of a specific society.
It may also be noted that while deviation is condemned, in some cases it is praised. The genius, the hero, the leader and the saint are among the culturally approved deviants. However, the values of a culture will determine whether a particular deviant is praised or condemned. Each culture encourages some deviations and discourages others.
2. Deviant Sub-cultures:
When an individual deviates from the norms of his sub-culture he is an individual deviant. But in a complex society there may be a number of deviant sub-cultures. By deviant sub-culture we mean me norms of deviant persons It “refers “to a set of shared understandings, values and ways of doing things that are at odds with conventional society, and yet, are accented in common by members of a particular community.”
In such a sub-culture the participating members gain some of the gratifications and rewards, though it may be at the cost of rejection by the conventional world. Such a sub-culture usually develops whenever a relatively large number of individuals share a common problem of adjustment lo conventional society and find difficulty in solving that problem within the conventional framework.
Thus in an area we may find a delinquent sub-culture in which many of the youths participate. In such areas delinquent behaviour is as normal as law-abiding behaviour. It is the group not the individual that is deviant from the conventional norms of society. A criminal gang has a deviant sub-culture. The members of such a gang are conform alive within the deviant sub-group but at the same lime they are alienated from the main institutional structure.
The deviant persons usually tend to join with similar other persons into deviant groups or they force others to their line. The bad boys in the college tend to form a clique. Individual hippies, drug addicts or homo sexual Lend to drift together into groups of deviants.
These groups reinforce and sanction the deviation and give me members emotional projection against critics. These groups of deviants develop a set of rigid behavioral norms of their own. These norms are called deviant sub- culture. The hippie culture may be called a deviant sub-culture.
3. Causes of Deviant Behaviour:
Deviant behaviour may be caused due to inability or failure to conform. The inability to conform may be the result of mental or physical defect. On account of mental defect the individual has limited capacity Lo learn.
On account of mental illness a person is unable to perceive and respond to realities in an orderly and rational manner. Hence he becomes a social deviant. The causes of mental illness may be both physical and social. The stresses and strains of modern social life produce menial illness. Culture introduction to sociology conflicts also are responsible for mental illness.
But some people fail to conform even though they are physically and mentally capable of learning conventional behaviour.
To explain such cases of deviation some theories have been put forward. These are:
(i) Physical-type Theories:
These theories seek to relate deviant behaviour with body type. Lombreso was of the view that certain body types are more given to deviant behaviour than others. Deviants were classified into physical types to explain their behaviour. However, the physical type theories are no longer accepted. A number of serious errors have been pointed out in the method of their classification.
(ii) Psychoanalytic Theories:
These theories attribute deviant behaviour to the conflicts in human personality. Freud was a leading psychoanalyst. He gave the concepts of id, ego and super ego. Deviant behaviour is the result of conflicts between the id, and the ego, or between the id and the super ego. The psychoanalytic theory is still unproved by empirical research.
Sometimes, culture frustrates biological drives and impulses leading thereby to deviant behaviour. Thus our culture makes no approved provision for the satisfaction of sexual drives of the unmarried, widowed or separated. If one gratifies such impulses in contravention of social taboo, he is engaging in deviant behaviour.
(iii) Failures in Socialization:
Both the above types of theories fail to explain deviant behaviour adequately. Everyone affected with physical or mental illness does not become a deviant. Likewise, every member of a society is frustrated by the clash of his biological drives with the taboos of, his culture, but not everyone becomes a deviant.
The social scientists are of the opinion that some persons are deviant because the socialization process has failed in some way to integrate the cultural norms into the individual’s personality. Where the socialization process is successful, the individual internalizes the social norms and he behaves in the expected manner.
His lapses are rare. Family, as we have studied earlier, is the most important agent of socialization. Behaviour norms are mainly learnt in the family. Although it is difficult to prove direct relationship between deviant behaviour and family atmosphere, yet a variety of behaviour difficulties have been traced to some disturbance in the parent child relationship.
(iv) Cultural Conflicts:
The society is an extremely heterogeneous society. There are many sets of norms and values which compete with one another. The family norms may come into conflict with the norms of trade union. One religion teaches one thing, another teaches a different thing. The school teaches respect and obedience, the party teaches resistance and revolt. The family teaches God-worship, the state teaches secularism.
The religious system teaches that one should be generous and self- sacrificing, but our economic system rewards those who are ruthless and selfish. Our formal mores demand chastity until marriage, but our films present too much sex. The young people are exposed to obscene literature.
Thus culture conflicts are a unique feature of the modern complex and changing society. They are found virtually in all societies. And wherever they exist, culture conflicts encourage deviant behaviour. It may be said that a high rate of deviation is the price we pay for a complex, rapidly changing society.
Anomie is a condition of normlessness. By normlessness we do not mean that modern societies have no norms; instead it means that they have many sets of norms with none of them clearly binding upon everybody.
As we have seen, in the modern society with its elaborate division of labour and complex institutional patterns, the difficulty of coordinating all the parts and of socializing all the humans to mesh their behaviours smoothly is formidable.
The individual does not know which norm to follow, whether to follow the norms of the family or of the school. Anomie thus arises from the confusion and conflict of norms. People, in modern society move about too rapidly to be bound to the norms of any particular group. In traditional societies people were guided by a coherent set of traditions which they followed with little deviation.
But the modern society lacks coherent traditions, different groupings having different norms. The society provides him no guide. Consequently his behaviour lacks consistency and conforms to no dependable norm. According to Durkheim, “When there is a sudden change, the normative structure of the regulating norms of society is slackened, hence, man does not know what is wrong or what is right, his impulses are excessive; to satisfy them, he seeks anomie”.
In the words of Merton, “Anomie may be conceived as breakdown in the cultural structure occurring particularly when there is an acute distinction between cultural norms and goals and the socially structured capacities of members of the group to act in accord with them.” According to him, there is in our social structure “a strain towards anomie.” The degree of anomie may range from slight contradiction and confusion to serious deterioration and disintegration.
(vi) Personal Factors:
Sometimes personal factors may also be involved in the genesis of deviation. As a result of their particular experiences, many of the people acquire deviant attitudes and habits. An ugly face may deprive some people of the opportunity to participate in the affairs of the community. Some persons are so seriously affected by an experience that they isolate themselves from certain groups or situations.
Thus some people may refuse to ride trains or automobiles because of some accident in which they were involved. The sight of a dead man led Lord Buddha to renounce the crown. A mouse eating the food offered to the idol made Swami Dayanand a critic of idol-worship. In some cases a deviant behaviour is supported by myths and legends.
(vii) Social Location:
The location of people in the social structure also causes deviant behaviour. The position a person occupies in the stratification system, his position in the age and sex structure of the society and his position in the special arrangements of the society make a difference in how he behaves. The life chances of people depend on the particular position they occupy in the society. The people who live in slums and are at the bottom of social hierarchy are more induced to certain forms of deviation than the people who form the upper strata of society.
4. Significance of Deviant Behaviour:
When the mores forbid something that many people strongly wish to do, norms of evasion are likely to appear. !n such cases a particular norm stands violated. When such violation is recognized and sanctioned by one’s group, it becomes a norm of evasion. In becoming group-sanctioned the evasion loses its moral censure.
Among some groups seducing a woman may earn one the admiration of his followers. The cocktail functions facilitate discreet sexual offences between high status people and young women. Norms of evasion thus get institutionalized and we may call it institutionalized evasion.
Deviant behaviour generally threatens social stability:
A culture can function efficiently only if there is order and predictability in social life. We must know what behaviour to expect from others, what they expect of us, and what kind of society our children should be prepared to live in. Deviant behaviour threatens this order and predictability.
When too many people fail to behave as expected, the culture becomes disorganized and social order collapses. Economic activity may be disrupted. The mores lose their force. Individuals feel insecure and confused. The society fails to function efficiently.
But deviant behaviour is sometimes socially useful:
It is one way of adapting a culture to social change. As we know no society is static, Social change is a universal phenomenon. Even the traditional societies are undergoing changes. The technological change will require new norms of behaviour. But new norms are not produced by deliberate assemblies of the people. New norms emerge from the daily behaviour of individuals.
The deviant behaviour of a few individuals may be the beginning of a new norm. As more and more people join in the deviant behaviour, a new norm will eventually be established. The emergence of new norms through deviant behaviour can be easily seen in the family relationship. In the nineteenth century a woman going out of the home to work in an office and earn an independent living was a deviant, but today she is common place.
Thus the deviant behaviour of one generation may become the norm of the next. A changing society “needs deviant behaviour for the emergence of new norms which it must develop if it is to function efficiently.
It may, however, be noted that all forms of deviation are not socially useful. The behaviour of the criminal, the sex deviant or the drunkard rarely contributes to the creation of a socially useful norm. It is only a few forms of deviant behaviour which may become future norms.
1. Meaning of Sanctions:
Society, as we have seen earlier, is a harmonious organisation of human relationships. Unless the people live upto the expected norms of behaviour, the social organisation may not be effectively maintained. But people often do not live upto the expected behavioural norms and often violate them.
The reasons for violation of moral norms may be several. Violations may occur because two norms are contradictory. A man’s obligation to his family may conflict with his obligation to the state. As during a strike, an industrial worker cannot be faithful to both the employer and union leaders.
Sometimes, a person’s desire may prove stronger than his respect for the norm which forbids it. It is not always convenient to regularly attend the class in the school, to be faithful to one’s friend and to pay one’s debts. Often one satisfies one’s desire through modes not socially approved. Thus there is black marketing, adulteration, stealing, bribery, and adultery.
The society is thus faced by continuous noncompliance of its norms by the members which may threaten its solidarity. Therefore, to enforce norms the society takes recourse to sanctions. Sanctions are thus the means of controlling human behaviour.
They may take the form of both rewards and punishments. Generally speaking, sanctions are understood to mean punishments or deprivations, but rightly understood sanctions refer to both rewards, gratifications and punishments or deprivations. They are used to persuade or force an individual or group to conform to social expectations.
Aims of Sanctions:
The basic purposes of sanctions are to bring about conformity, solidarity and continuity of a particular group, community or larger group, in primary groups and small societies, sanctions are not so much needed as in secondary group and large societies. As societies become heterogeneous, not only complexity of interaction increases but there are found cross-currents of warring factions.
Employers get at odds with labour unions over hours of works and wages. Caste groups conflict with each other over jobs. Communal groups argue over theological differences. Professional classes are in competition and conflict. There is always a danger that strong vested groups may disrupt the ongoing of the society and threaten its existence. Sanctions control the individuals or groups who threaten solidarity. They prevent social disorganisation and ensure conformity to expected norms of social behaviour.
Sanctions make possible the prediction of behaviour. It need not be emphasized that to ensure an established and peaceful order people should know what to expect from others and what others will do. Through regulation of behaviour it can be anticipated what an individual will do or what his punishment will be if he fails to act.
Sanctions also make possible continuity. They form a part of the culture which is passed on from generation to generation. Thus each generation gets a pattern of control which keeps the social order running smoothly. Each generation is not required to develop its own code.
However, since society is undergoing rapid changes, so continuity is disturbed and lo meet new situations and problems new codes have to be developed. Sometimes the new codes come into conflict with old ones which creates difficulties in regulating behaviour and controlling it. The present sense of insecurity, impersonality and dissociation in mass society has threatened continuity of the traditional Indian society.
2. Types of Sanctions:
Sanctions have been classified variously. Sanctions can be positive or negative. Positive sanctions are essentially pleasant or rewarding such as praise, flattery, promotions, honours, medals etc.
Negative sanctions are essentially unpleasant. They inflict pain or threaten to do so. Such sanctions may vary from a mild expression of disapproval to fines and imprisonments or death.
Sanctions can be formal and informal. The informal sanctions are illustrated by customs, the mores and public opinion. The formal sanctions are worked out by a legally constituted authority.
Sanctions can be symbolic or take the form of overt force. Symbolic sanctions are praise and flattery, promises, persuasion, propaganda, rewards, satire, commands, censure and threats. The form of overt force includes fines, punishment, imprisonment, torture and death.
A brief description of sanctions used in all human societies may be desirable:
Conscience is self-imposed sanction. It is the inner acceptance of certain moral norms as right and necessary, with the feeling of guilt if one violates them or is even tempted to do so. Conscience is an automatic warning signal that is tripped off when one wanders from one’s right path.
Conscience checks the self from doing things that might bring ridicule or punishment. Though all the moral norms are never internalized as conscience, yet it is sufficient if the majority show respect for such social ideals which are necessary for the preservation of order.
(ii) Symbolic Sanctions:
Symbolic sanctions are in the form of words and gestures. Praise is a reward in words, especially from higher to lower strata. Flattery is undue, exaggerated and somewhat false praise. It appeals directly to the ego. Indoctrination advertising and propaganda condition persons to act along lines which they like or imagine they like.
Persuasion is a form of suggestion. Slogans help define situation and direct behaviour along desired lines. Gossip is largely critical in tone. Satire employs wit and scorn as in direct criticism of actions felt to be socially harmful. It exposes by ridicule the danger of behaviour. Laughing at others is one of the oldest sanctions. It isolates its object from his fellows. Name—calling is an old device of control.
It does damage to those against whom it is cast. Commands are a direct verbal form of ordering and for bidding. They are issued by those in authority. Threats are the most severe form of verbal sanctions. If the threat does not prove effective to control behaviour then the person threatened is made to suffer physical punishment. A threat puts two alternatives before the person threatened either to do or not to do the act, otherwise face punishment.
(iii) Overt Force:
When the above sanctions fail, the final sanction of force is resorted to. It signifies that if the individual does not do as he is told, pain, suffering and even death may be inflicted on him. This sanction includes fines, imprisonment, whipping, mutilation, torture, banishment and death. It must be borne in mind that overt force is applied by legitimate, vested authority in the name of a group or the total society.