Deviance mainly refers to the contravening of norms and standards as set out in a particular society. Crime, on the other hand, involves the violation of laws set by the government aimed at controlling erratic behaviors. Crime thus represents a form of social deviance since it involves breaking the law by engaging in acts sanctioned under the justice system (Goode, 2016). Therefore, while some aspects of deviance and crime overlap, there are significant differences in their perceptions and interpretations in a community.
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Crime, as a subset of deviance, attracts punishment under written laws since society views the violations as significant ones. In contrast, instances of deviance do not necessarily require any form of punishment. For instance, some groups view prostitution as deviant behavior but do not consider it illegal, thus, it cannot attract punishment under the law. Apart from that, deviance ranges across different backgrounds, whereas crime remains constant globally (Goode, 2016). These differences mean that while some communities may perceive a particular behavior as unacceptable, others view it as a regular aspect. As a result, the differences and similarities between deviance and crime mainly involve subjectivity but contain unique aspects that set them apart.
The concept of “rough division of labor” used by sociologists to study deviance and crime refers to the differences in specializations. While some sociologists may specialize in criminology to study the behavior of individuals, others that specialize in deviance study the social dynamics that underline the conditions, behavior, and beliefs of a community (Goode, 2016). Therefore, each group utilizes a unique way to understand the ideas of crime and deviance in their respective social groups.
The concepts of deviance and crime, therefore, overlap in some ways but contain significant differences in their interpretations in sociology. While instances of crime attract punishment under set laws, deviant behaviors do not necessarily require any form of punishment. Additionally, criminologists focus on understanding the behaviors of individuals, while sociologists that study deviance focus on understanding the role of social groups in the formation of such laws and beliefs. Consequently, both deviance and crime represent a deviation from societal norms but become separated only by the degree of nonconformity to acceptable behavior.
Goode, E. (2016). Deviant behavior (11th ed.). Routledge.