Deviance Changes over Time

Text books from the mid-60s have this to say about social deviance.  Most social deviance was (and still is) totally outside of actual acts conducted by people.

Knavery, skulduggery, cheating, unfairness, crime, sneakiness, malingering, cutting corners, immorality, dishonesty, betrayal, graft, corruption, wickedness and sin.

These are all things that people did to earn their label and it seems acceptable to find a conscious behaviour deviant.  But there are many (many) more that were and still are totally outside of acts conducted by people. These forms of ‘deviance’ are more about what you are (‘midgets, dwarves and giants’), how you live (‘hobos, tramps, hippies & bohemians’), what you believe (‘heretics, moonies, jews and gypsies)’ and–most unfairly–how society decides to label you (‘nerds, sl*ts, geeks, f*gs, jocks’) regardless of what you do.

(Ugh, I don’t even like typing some of those words and have to edit them to avoid this blog being deemed deviant.)

At least I can take heart that we’ve come a long way since then, though we’re by no means fully accepting now. Today, things that were considered deviant fifty years ago (like, bohemianism or being jewish or being a geek) are normal and accepted today and, on the whole, society is more tolerant of differences in others.

Or is it? Maybe societal pressure to be tolerant has just forced the intolerance deeper down or made it grow more subtle. Do we now find subtler, more invisible ways of scrying out deviance in others? Do people get busy finding it in others so that their own deviance will be overlooked?

And given how deviance changes, what do we hold to be deviant now (outside of societal and statistical norms) that will be deemed ‘normal’ in the future? You’d hope it would be the small stuff but, judging by how society is evolving in relation to the taking of a life, perhaps not.

More on that tomorrow…

Taken from The Great Courses’ Explaining Social Deviance Lecture 1: Asking the Right Questions