Assessment 2

  • Category:
  • Document type:
  • Level:
  • Page:
  • Words:




The society is made up of people who are brought together and held together by a common bond that is culture, religion, laws, way of doing things and in some cases a common enemy. It is common however, to realize that not every member of the society will subscribe to these rules and norms. They will try their level best to revolt against them for various reasons (Wortley, 2003). In this essay we are going to have an in-depth look at the deviation from the societal rules by individuals in the society. The essay will further look at the difference between deviancy and criminality. In order to achieve this, we will first try to understand the basic concepts that we can come up with. We shall have an in-depth look at the reasons why people engage in crime and other deviant behaviors. We will also look at the difference between deviancy and crime as well as how the society views and handles the concept of deviancy and crime.

Criminality and deviance

Deviance can be defined as that kind of behavior that goes against the society’s norms, values and expectations. Sociologists define deviance as a violation of established, cultural contextual, social norms or codified law which can lead to one being told off or ridiculed (Winlow & Atkinson, 2012). The norms are rules under consideration which the individuals in the society are guided by. Deviance is the failure of the individuals to conform to the norms (Browne, 2005). The norms, however can differ from one culture to another, so that what could be considered the breaking of a social norm in one society could be considered as a social norm in another society.

Criminality on the other hand can be said to be the unlawful act that is punishable by the state. The definitions of criminality have no universally way of definition (Wortley, 2003). The most popular definition however is that criminality is a category created by the law. In other words, crime can only be considered as a crime if such has been declared as a criminal act by a relevant body and an applicable law. Crime is that kind of a behavior that breaks a formal and written law in the society. The commission of this law can lead to one being arrested arraigned in court and prosecuted (Fallon, 2013).

Crime has been defined as the laws that have been passed by the government bodies. There has to be some form of judgment has been made to declare that some form of criminal acts should be prohibited so that anyone who commits such an act are subjected to lawsuits by the authorities and by extension be dealt with in a way that the actor of the criminal act will not repeat the act towards the public or individuals (Rice, 2012). Deviancy is the act that violates the folkways, morals and customs of the society. If for instance, all your peers decide you all dress in grey and black and you decide to dress in white that would be considered as an act of deviancy. Deviance by definition cannot be considered as an act of crime. It is different from crime in the sense that the observers will take note and possibly judge the behavior against the common norms of the society and by extension sanction the behavior (Innes, 2003). A deviant act can only be considered as a crime if the government has made it a law. For example, in the United States of America, one cannot shout fire, in the middle of a crowd probably in a theatre hall and later claim to have done it because of free speech. In most cases, deviant acts could end up not being punished or sanctioned but are often remembered over and over with the person who committed the act of deviance being viewed as having done an odd act and the way they are perceived will always change (Jayasurya, 2012).

The challenges when differentiating between criminality and deviancy

It is very easy to identify and define a criminal act as the law in any society defines what amounts to a criminal act. However, deviance is quite difficult to identify what members of the society will consider as deviant (Innes, 2003). Deviance covers a number of various aspects and what is regarded as a deviant behavior will depend on the norms of the groups or the society. Maters are made difficult by the fact that the interpretation of deviance in some societies being both deviance as well as a crime. For example, speeding and parking offences, underage drinking, the use of hard drugs like marijuana, corruption as well as making of unauthorized phone calls to the office are all illegal (Jayasurya, 2012). However, it should be noted that all these acts are very common and is therefore very difficult to term them as deviant. Some of the offences such as the tendency of children to engage in substance abuse are so common that those who do not partake in the behavior are regarded as deviant by the people they hang around with (Friedrichs, 2003)

Some practices that were socially acceptable in some societies are now deviant and criminal to some sections (Wykes, 2000). Cigarette smoking for instance, was a very popular and acceptable behavior but is now increasingly becoming a deviant activity and as a fact, smokers are prohibited from smoking in many areas. Attitudes to homosexuality and abortion have also changed over time. Homosexuality for instance, is no longer seen as deviant as it was once a deviant activity. It was also a criminal act and is still criminal in most societies, but the act is now getting acceptance by the clergy especially in the Anglican Church as well as some states in the United States of America (Krohn, et al., 2012).

The other difficulty in differentiating crime and deviance is that norms and the definition of deviance and crime differ from society to society (Fallon, 2013). Consumption of alcohol, for example, is in most cases considered as deviant and criminal in Islamic jurisdictions, but is seen as normal in many western countries. Smoking cannabis is regarded as deviant and illegal in the United Kingdom but is a common behavioral most part of the Middle East and even legal in some states in US (Watson, 2008). The difficulty also comes when the act is committed in different places, for example having sex in the streets can land one in jail and at the same time lead to their being scolded by the public. It is, however okay if the two have sex in their home.

As the society evolves, so does the norms and believes. This has made it possible for people to change their perceptions of things over the years. There are those that were seen as deviant and sometimes criminal in the past, but are now socially acceptable. Same sex marriage for instance was against the laws and the norms of many jurisdictions, but is now being embraced and is becoming legal. In 2015 for example, the Supreme Court in the united states of America ruled that no state in America should make it illegal for same sex marriage (Edward & Beth, 2016). The same applies to abortion. That act was a social ill in the past, but is now becoming increasingly normal for people to perform the act albeit due to medical reasons in some cases. There are those activities that were not accepted by the society in the past for example, smoking cannabis and children drinking alcohol. In the contemporary society, there are so many parents who would gladly buy their sons and daughters alcohol (Edward & Beth, 2016). To that extend it is true to say that it would take some time before an agreed definition of the differences between the two acts are universally agreed upon.


In conclusion, the acts of deviance and criminality are different, but agree in most cases. This, however differs from society to society, one social group to another as well as from one place to another and from one time period to another. Acts therefore, that are seen to be criminal could be legal according to society, one social group to another as well as from one place to another and from one time period to another. The same can be applied to deviant behaviors. One thing however is clear, that some deviant activities like smoking cannabis in many societies is both a deviant and criminal. Some however, are legally acceptable, but it is considered an act of deviance in the society because it goes against the norms that the members of the society believe in (Edward & Beth, 2016). The key difference in the two is the actions taken against the actors. While they will be expected to go to jail after being charged for criminal offences, in acts of deviancy, the individuals will just be scolded and ridiculed by the members of the society. The two acts will therefore present a difficulty in terms of their difference in a long time to come. As norms and laws change, it is expected that people will agree on some issues and continues to disagree on some. What is clear however is that all these norms and beliefs are set by the members of the society who can also change them.


Browne, K. (2005). An introduction to sociology, 3rd Edn. Polity Press: Cambrige.

Edward, I. & Beth, H. (2016). GOVT, 8th Edn. Cengage Learning: New York.

Friedrichs, D. O. (2003). Crime, deviance and criminal justice: In search of a radical humanistic perspective. Humanity & Society, 27(3): 316–335. doi:10.1177/016059760302700313

Fallon, J. (2013). The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist’s Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain. Penguin Group: New York.

Innes, Martin. (2003). Understanding Social Control: Deviance, Crime and Social Order. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press.

Jayasurya, G. (2012). Deviance & crime intensification: A consequence of modernization. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.1627184

Krohn, M. D., Lizotte, A. J., & Gina, H. (2012). Handbook on crime and deviance. Dordrecht: Springer Science+Business Media.

Rice, K. E. (2012). Crime and deviance — the difference. Retrieved from

Watson, C. (2008). Underworld: Crime and Deviancy in the British silent film. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 5(1), 157–161. doi:10.3366/e1743452108000137

Winlow, S., & Atkinson, R. (2012). York Deviancy conference 2011. Crime, Media, Culture, 8(2): 119–122. doi:10.1177/1741659012445368

Wortley, S. (2003). “Hidden Intersections: Research on Race, Crime, and Criminal Justice in Canada.” Canadian Ethnic Studies. 35(3): 99-117.

Wykes, M. (2000). News, crime and culture. London: Pluto Press.