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Crime And Deviance Essay

1396 words - 6 pages

What is defined as deviant or criminal is dependent upon who is defining. When one attempts to define what is acceptable in society, one should also evaluate reasons why certain behaviour is or is not deemed acceptable. In society, some behaviour is considered to be deviant or criminal and thus a social problem. But not all criminal behaviours are deviant and not all deviance is illegal; abortion is an example of the second. Deviant behaviour can be defined as violating social norms, going against general consensus by ignoring the proverbial moral compass. Criminality on the other hand can be defined as the punishable act of breaking laws. In addition, the definitions of what is ...view middle of the document...

As an example, abortion may be considered to be a social problem and frowned upon by some cultures and religious groups, yet it is legal in most countries (depending on circumstances) (Rights, 2013). Its acceptability also changes over time, and is reflected in amendments to legislative policy. Therefore, time along with context and settings play a large role in society determining what is or is not acceptable.
According to key symbolic interactionism theorists, deviant or criminal behaviour is socially defined. For instance, Charles Cooley’s concept of ‘the looking-glass self’ dictates that societal perception of oneself defines behaviour. “What moves us to pride or shame is not the mere mechanical reflection of ourselves, but an imputed sentiment, the imagined effect of this reflection upon another’s mind” (Cooley, 1902). In essence, his idea relates to self-image and how interaction with others determines how one sees their own appearance. Therefore, in relation to abortion, even if it is legal in her jurisdiction, a woman may imagine others viewing her in a negative way. “Shame is an emotion that involves an awareness of the other’s regard for oneself. It is thus a social emotion in that it involves an audience, real or imagined, specific or generalized” (Madianou, 2011). She may see herself as an ugly, dirty, immoral murderer, if she believes members of society look down on her decision.
Abortion is somewhat a taboo subject and often kept private (Greenway, 2009). In the majority of countries around the world it is not a crime, yet people anticipate reactions and therefore learn that some actions, such as abortion, are frowned upon by society. George Herbert Mead, a social interactionist, reiterates this idea when he discusses the concept of the ‘generalised other’. “An individual responds to social gestures and takes up and adjusts common attitudes” (Dodds, Lawrence & Valsiner, 1997). We learn society’s rules by expecting societal response and therefore internalise these rules. This notion means that we seek approval from our peers or family, for instance. We also learn and endeavour to apply proper behaviour, relative to settings and contexts. So, although a woman may be pro-abortion, she may decide that it is inappropriate to discuss the matter in certain settings with certain members of society out of fear of not meeting the expectations of the general consensus.
Another key theorist is Erving Goffman, who had the notion that ‘all the world’s a stage’. Using this theatrical metaphor, he formulated the idea of ‘conduct impression management’ based on ‘dramaturgy’ (Smith, 2006). In effect, Goffman was conceptualizing that people maintain an image to avoid embarrassment or stigma being placed on them by other members of society. “Individuals are socialized to ‘fill in’ and ‘manage’ any part they assume” (Smith, 2006). Subsequently, a person will try to fit the...

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