Sociology of deviance and criminal law

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2 Citations (Scopus)


The sociology of deviance encompasses a wide range of behaviours and activities, including crime. Within sociology, the concept of deviance is controversial and its use has changed over time. Nonetheless, its core concerns - the distinctions between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, processes of normalisation, and social control - remain as significant in contemporary analyses as during the 1960s and 1970s. The sociology of deviance overlaps considerably with the sociology of law: both are concerned with social control, the relationship between law and social regulation, law-breaking and legal change; but neither focus exclusively on those topics. Even so, boundaries between these two sub-specialties are not firm; and often discipline-specific concepts and language obscure similarities. This chapter introduces some of the classic studies and concepts in the sociology of deviance combined with current examples and discussion. It describes some of the ambivalence surrounding the concept of deviance and its allied concepts. The concept of social norm, that is shared understandings of what is appropriate and inappropriate behaviour and activities, is central to definitions of deviance. Social control, and related concepts of compliance, discipline, regulation and surveillance, is inextricably linked to the identification and management of deviance. The chapter examines the links among social norms, deviance and crime with a particular focus on defining crime and on the salience of gender norms. It maps out the complex intersections between deviance and crime demonstrating that the identification of both entails the creation and imposition of social norms combined with the labelling individuals and groups.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch Handbook on the Sociology of Law
EditorsJiri Priban
Place of PublicationCheltenham, UK
PublisherEdward Elgar
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781789905182
ISBN (Print)9781789905175
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameResearch Handbooks in Law and Society
PublisherEdward Elgar


  • theories of deviance
  • social norms
  • regulation
  • social control


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