Measures of ‘normalcy’

The people or groups establishing ‘norms’ generally have social power (either through numbers or authority) which makes them automatically prejudiced. Normally you would turn to statistics to help inform societal norms but the issue here is that any statistical study of deviance is already prejudiced by our societal norms. Who decides that drug-use is more interesting, statistically, than toe-length? […]

Kids are brilliant deviants—until they’re not

Most people learn where the boundaries of social norms are by testing them. Children spend their entire childhoods learning where the social norm ‘walls’ are. It’s their job. And the comparatively high length of the human juvenile phase (aka. childhood) is reflective of how socially complex human society is. There are so many formal and informal […]

Taboos, conventions and mores

The latest in my Learn Something Every Day series of lectures, taken from The Great Courses’ Explaining Social Deviance Lecture 1: Asking the Right Questions Our societies have stated, written and/ore formalised rules called ‘laws’ but they also have bunches of unwritten, informal ways in which we agree to interact with each other. Entire books […]

Deviance: the darling of popular culture

Deviance from societal norms may engender anything from a vague discomfort/awareness that ‘one of these things is not like the others’ through to outright intolerance and demonization, but at the same time it is regularly celebrated in our art. Popular culture tends to be full of movies and books and tales featuring characters that could […]

Rule-breaking: it isn’t deviance

Importantly, deviance is not rule-breaking, that’s way too simple. Some deviants break no formal rules at all but find themselves outside of the unspoken rules of society a hundred times a day for reasons outside of their control. Take a person with Asperger’s who may faithfully follow every rule ever communicated to them, yet constantly […]

The relativism of murder

The latest in my Learn Something New Every Day series, taken from The Great Courses’ Explaining Social Deviance – Lecture 1: Asking the Right Questions Some behaviours or actions are totally accepted in one culture yet sanctioned in another; only a comparative few deviant actions are universal.  You would expect (and absolutists absolutely do) that the […]

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 […]

Deviance: it’s what society says it is

I’ve started my latest The Great Courses course thanks to a friend and fellow author who got to choose what we did next (so many choices!). I think  that this isn’t going to be quite what either of us expected, but it certainly is interesting and no shortage of something(s) new to learn. So the […]

Why Shakespeare would have made a good romance writer

1. Shakespeare was ‘pirated’ mercilessly by publishers most of whom did not seek his permission before publishing and selling his plays or sonnets. They changed them, dis-ordered them and tweaked them to make them more marketable, uncaring about the author’s intent. This is because they were so highly commercial (like romance fiction) and publishers wanted […]

Shakespeare: Anarchist or conformist?

For all his inventiveness and rule-breaking and bar-setting and anarchy in his staged works, Shakespeare stuck faithfully (and almost rigidly) to the iambic pentameter poetical form of his time (AB AB CD CD EF EF GG rhyming pattern) using precisely seven rhyming sounds and exactly 140 syllables per poem. Within that, he tried to be […]