Norms, Laws, and Driving while Deviant
Tags: crime/law/deviance, durkheim, theory, anomie, collective conscience, functionalism, mechanical social sanctions, norms, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: Deviant acts are transgressions of social norms. For instance, when a woman uses the urinal in the men's restroom she is clearly breaking a social norm. Her transgression is an act of deviance. But people break rules all the time. Norms after all are only informal directives for action, and humans aren't programmable. In some cases, norms are accidentally broken, and in other cases, they are purposely broken by a rebellious actor, who is unafraid of the potential sanctions. In still other cases, social actors improvise to redefine the situation, thereby temporarily changing the set of applicable norms. For instance, the bathroom bound woman may signal verbally or through her body language that in order to avoid an embarrassing public scene she needs immediate access to a toilet, which just happens to be available in the men's room. By redefining the situation as an emergency, she gains access to the men's room. Norms are relatively malleable, but once they are codified as laws, much of this malleability is lost. Breaking a law is no less an act of deviance, but this particular type of transgression is known as a crime. Unlike norms, laws are generally more difficult to circumvent, and the formal social sanctions applied to law breakers are far more severe. The above clip features a school bus driver's amateur footage of an impatient woman illegally zooming past his bus' stop sign. In this unambiguous criminal act of deviance, she drives her car on a sidewalk next to the bus, just in front of a daycare center. Note the glee in the voices of the school children, who watch as the woman is stopped by a police officer who witnessed the entire event. In addition to catalyzing a conversation about deviance, norms, and law, the video can also be drawn on to discuss Durkheim's insight that just as this woman's crime seems to have improved the solidarity among children in the bus, crime in general can paradoxically improve the social solidarity within a society. In this case, the woman's $500.00 fine can be understood as a mechanical social sanction. It is an opportunity for those who witness and hear about the event to unite in their shared disgust over the brazen disregard for laws designed to protect the lives of children, and it's an opportunity to further promote the sacred values of the community.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
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