Deviant Behavior: Crime, Conflict, and Interest Groups

Deviant Behavior: Crime, Conflict, and Interest Groups

Deviant Behavior: Crime, Conflict, and Interest Groups

Deviant Behavior: Crime, Conflict, and Interest Groups


Using the framework of interest group conflict, this text combines a balanced, comprehensive overview of the field of deviance with first-hand expertise in the workings of the criminal justice system. Deviant Behavior, Seventh Edition,surveys a wide range of topics, from explanations regarding crime and criminal behavior, measurement of crime, violent crime and organizational deviance, to sexual behavior, mental health, and substance abuse. This new edition continues its tradition of applying time-tested, sociological theory to developing social concepts and emerging issues.


The first edition of this book was published in 1976, before most of today’s student readers were born. The years have brought dramatic changes to the field of deviant behavior. There has been a continuing diffusion of traditional deviant behavior subject matter into other disciplines inside and outside of sociology. The most notable examples include family studies and gender studies, both of which now provide new approaches to such issues as violence against women and children, and the changing social, legal, and political status of homosexuals. Researchers in these areas come from a wide range of disciplines and have produced a wealth of imaginative and controversial studies. Their research agendas are not incursions onto the hallowed ground of deviant behavior; instead, they complement the field and reveal the importance of interdisciplinary study for providing fresh insights. Indeed, criminology is a discipline whose subject matter has consistently overlapped with deviant behavior, and the latter field continues to profit from the theoretical and methodological breakthroughs of criminologists.

Despite the valuable contributions of these new approaches to deviance, one traditional premise of the field remains unchanged: The definition of deviance—that is, what is “deviant”—is fluid and depends on the vagaries of time, place, and the influence of those who attempt to impose the label. In this edition we continue the theoretical theme of earlier editions by discussing specific behaviors in the context of interest group conflict. This approach recognizes that U.S. society consists of groups with diverse notions of what should be defined as “immoral,” “illegal,” and “pathological.” Whether behaviors are so defined depends on the groups’ dedication to their causes, to the efficiency of their organizations, and ultimately, to their adeptness in molding public opinion and the political process.

The United States continues to experience interest group conflicts that constantly redefine the contents of deviance texts. One example is the heated clash over abortion on demand. Which side will prevail—pro-choice or pro-life? Depending on the outcome, future textbooks may well include a section or even a chapter on abortion as “deviant” behavior. Along these same lines we may anticipate a raging debate on the issue of human cloning. Is the concept moral? Is it safe? Is it wise? Will it be legal? Are the cloners and the cloned to be labeled deviant?

In another arena, widespread dissatisfaction with the conduct of the “war on drugs” has created calls for legalization of some currently prohibited drugs. For decades vocal but essentially powerless groups advocated legalization of drugs, especially marijuana. Now their position is supported by influential judiciaries, law enforcement officials, and legislators. Perhaps in the future marijuana and even heroin use will be regarded in the same light as alcohol use. And what of the prospect of homosexuality continuing to be labeled as deviant? Not too long ago social reaction made homosexuality “the love that dares not speak its name.” A shorter time ago an analyst of the burgeoning “gay pride” movement referred to it as “the love that won’t shut up.” The growth of gay political power is readily evident in the current discussions over gays’ status in the military, legal recognition of same-sex families . . .

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