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Social Deviance

Social Deviance

Stuart Henry

ISBN: 978-0-745-64303-8

Oct 2009, Polity

176 pages

In Stock



This engaging introduction explores the meaning of social deviance in contemporary society, from criminal activity to alternative lifestyle choices. Stuart Henry traces the path by which we create deviance: how we single out behavior and appearances that differ from the ‘norm’, label them as offensive or unacceptable, and condemn them. It explains what kinds of behaviors are banned and who bans them, as well as exposing the important political influences on the social codes that lead to some people’s behavior being sanctioned and others’ being celebrated. Ultimately Social Deviance reveals the underlying process by which some people get sucked into deviant lifestyles from which there appears to be no escape, highlighting the central role of social stigma on a person’s identity.

At its core this book looks at who becomes deviant and why. It delves into the multiple motives that cause rule breakers to behave badly, at least in the eyes of those they offend, and it reveals the way deviants think about their actions, their moral identity and their fellow moral outcasts.


Chapter 1: What is Deviance?
Chapter 2: Why People Ban Behavior
Chapter 3: Why Some People Break Rules: From Extreme to Mundane Deviance
Chapter 4: Neutralizing Morality and Deviant Motivations
Chapter 5: How People Become Deviants
Chapter 6: Responding to Deviant Designations and Coping with Stigma
Chapter 7: Becoming Normal: The Politics of Stigma
Conclusion: What Can Studying Deviance Do for You?


"This book does just about everything I could have asked, and does it in a way that will allow students to embrace concepts of social deviance, understand the complexity of the issues, and be able to apply these ideas to their everyday lives. It is well written and uses simple, non-jargonized language with excellent examples to get its point across. I thought it would be impossible to get me excited about another text on this topic, but there are no books that match this one."
Peter Adler, University of Denver

"Stuart Henry has done a remarkable job of introducing the student to what is perhaps the most intriguing subject in the undergraduate curriculum - the sociology of deviance. Yes, deviance is alive and well. Pick up this book and read it. It is a brisk, engaging, and informative account of normative violations and their aftermath. Our students will enjoy and learn from it."
Erich Goode, State University of New York at Stony Brook

• Accessible and engaging introduction to the meaning of social deviance in contemporary society
• In keeping with the ‘Polity Short Introductions' series, written in a story-telling style with interesting anecdotal examples
• Written by a very senior and extremely well-respected figure in the field in the US
• Covers the whole range of what society considers ‘deviant', from sexual identities to criminal behaviour, as well as looking at the mechanics of how labelling deviants is performed and maintained