Free Custom «Deviance in Sociology» Essay Paper

Free Custom «Deviance in Sociology» Essay Paper


In every group there is some form of interaction between the members of the group. A group can be defined as some people interacting with each other in ways that make a pattern and are unified by the feeling of being attached together by some consciousness. Groups can be formed at various levels and for different purposes. For example, peer groups, family groups, work groups, discussion groups and so forth. Groups are known to serve two purposes namely social interaction and accomplishment of common tasks.

Interaction within a group is very crucial as it influences group cohesiveness and accomplishment of tasks. Group interaction is determined by three factors: communication patterns, physical proximity and size (Brinkerhoff, 2008). Groups can even be differentiated based on their interaction. Primary groups are smaller in size hence more interaction takes place as opposed to secondary groups which are large in size. In terms of communication, in primary groups communications is done face to face whereas in secondary groups it is indirect (telephone, memos etc.).


As mentioned above different groups vary in size. The smallest group that can ever exist is that of two people.  Has the groups becomes bigger its characteristics change. In a large group communication is impersonal. Also as the group enlarges it becomes more difficult for every member to share their opinion or even participate in decision making. Involving all the members in decision making would be time-consuming and on many occasions critical decisions may need to be made amid time-constraint environment such as in the military. Despite the above mentioned limitations of large groups, in particular situations large groups are the best.

For instance, a big group is more suitable for solving problems and finding solutions albeit at the expense of personal satisfaction. A good example of such a group is the military. Numbers matter in the military. Although number of soldiers is not the only important factor for winning a battle, large numbers of soldiers create a feeling military strength. A soldier may not agree with the decision made by commanders but have no choice but execute them thus making the group less satisfying. This may lead to a member of the group pulling out (resigning).

In the military there are different levels of decision making. The commanders are responsible for deciding what needs to be done and the best way to do it, as well as leading his unit to execute the mission. In making decisions with respect to the above responsibilities, the commander does not engage all the members of his unit. On the contrary, the subordinates (larger in size than commander) are responsible for planning operations to achieve the commander’s intent. In planning, all the subordinates are involved in deciding the best operations

Communication pattern

Communication in any group can either facilitate or hinder group interaction. If a communication pattern allows equal participation it is known as “all-channel network” (Brinkerhoff, 2008 p.104). In such a pattern all members of a group communicate with other members in more or less the same ease. All members of the group have an equal chance to attract attention. However, this is not the case in circle pattern interaction. In circle pattern interaction people are more at ease to speak to their neighbours. Nevertheless, there is no person given more power than the rest. In contrast with wheel pattern interaction, not only is interaction reduced but also a single member of the group has greater power.

Communication pattern varies with types of teams. For example in a military unit there is the commander team and the subordinates. Each of these teams has different roles and responsibilities which determines the communication patterns. The unit commanders in the military form a management team. Examples of command that can be regarded as management team are the control tower or the combat centre. They are responsible for coordinating operations. The military as a whole is an action team. For example tank crew and infantry squad. They are comprised of a commander and his/her subordinates. The commander has greater power than the other members of the unit. Therefore the interaction between the commander and the subordinates can be described as wheel pattern interaction. A major characteristic of this type of interaction as mentioned earlier is reduced interaction.

However, interaction among subordinates as they plan and execute operations is greater and communication is more at ease. Interaction is task oriented and can be described as circle pattern interaction. Cohesiveness of a task oriented group is crucial for achievement of the desired goals. Such thing as matching has been found to increase a military unit’s cohesiveness. It makes soldiers feel part of the whole.

Physical proximity

Physical proximity influences interaction in that one is more likely to interact with the person they are physically close to. For instance in a classroom setting a student is more likely to make friends with those that sit next rather than those at the end of the row. In a military unit, interaction of commanders and subordinates is reduced by physical proximity. The commanders are usually at the fore front. Also interaction among the soldiers is influenced by physical proximity. They are more likely to interact more with those next to them in parade than those at the fore front or at the back.


Deviance can be described as behaviors or actions that go against the cultural norms such as laws as well as violation of informal social norms. This is termed as the normative definition of deviance. The stronger the cultural norms of a society or institution, the greater the likelihood of people conforming to the norms. On the other hand, a society with weak cultural norms exhibits several cases of deviant behaviour. However, relativists define deviance in a different manner. According to relativists, there are no universal entities that define deviance for all times and in all places (Clinard and Meier, 2008 p.5). This means that deviance is in the eyes of the beholder and not in the action/s of a person who might be labelled deviant. Relativist and normative definitions of deviance complement each other. Norms provide relativists the basis for reacting to deviance while such reactions express norms and helps in identifying deviance.

It is worth noting that certain norms apply to certain situations, at particular places and in certain times. For instance the way a child is expected to behave in the church is different from expected behaviour in the play ground. There is a particular way that soldiers are expected to behave towards the civilian which is different from the expected behaviour towards their leaders. Norms can be characterized as expectations of conduct or evaluations of conduct. Expectations of conduct highlight regularities of behaviour based on traditional customs or habits. On the other hand an evaluation of conduct is based on the conception that some behaviors or beliefs should or should not occur in particular situations, any time or at any place. An example of an evaluation of conduct norm is; no torturing of prisoners ever.

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Many sociologists such as Durkheim and Merton have contributed a lot to the understanding of sociology of deviance. Merton borrowed a lot from Durkheim’s theory of “Anomie”. Anomie can be described as the “weakness in the normative order of a society” (Krohn et al, 2009 p.210).  Norms play a critical role in determining limits on personal desires and hence making it possible for the people to attain a sense of fulfilment. In other words norms can be termed as a regulatory force to deviant behaviour. Therefore, when cultural norms are weak and fail to exert considerable regulatory force, people will tend to have no limit to their desires causing some people to commit suicide. This view on norms contribution to occurrence of deviant behaviour is shared by both Merton and Durkheim.

In the military there are fewer incidents of deviant behaviour compared with the society at large. This is because laws have been set which guides the desires and actions of the soldiers. These laws set goals and means to achieve the goals. For example, there are clearly stipulated laws on going up the ranks. This way the soldiers know what is required of them to achieve particular goals.

Just like any other society, the military has its own norms. The most critical norm is obedience. Every soldier is expected to obey legitimate authority even if the command is against their personal instincts or values. Failure to obey the legitimate authority is punishable. Obedience in the military is what distinguishes leaders from followers. This is intended to maintain order in the military and avoid chaos or disintegration. Unity and order in any military unit is very critical for winning battles. However, other norms are neither aimed at avoiding chaos nor disintegration in the society but are meant to make a statement concerning what is believed by some, many, or most members of a society to be correct, good and sound.

They substantiate particular precepts of moral correctness, separate and autonomous of what they exercise for the physical survival of the society. Therefore the soldiers are expected to do some things simply because they are correct and that's the way they are done. An example is sexual relationships. Most militaries do not allow lesbian and gay relationships among their soldiers. This is because they are believed to be bad and inappropriate and not because they cause chaos. Therefore such behaviour in the military are deemed deviant.

Although the military is such an orderly institution pockets of deviant behaviour are exhibited. Many deviant behaviors exhibited in the military are moral issues such as lesbian and gay relationships, pornography and prostitution. Soldiers who exhibit such kind of behaviour have been labelled deviant and even stigmatized.

Homosexuality as a deviant behaviour in the military

In many countries the military should not be homosexuals. American military is an example. For a very long time homosexuals were never allowed to serve in the American military. As a matter of fact, a question on homosexuality was asked to recruits who wanted to join the military. It was seen as risk to morale, unit cohesion and discipline.  Those who were charged with acts of homosexuality were expelled from the military. According to American values homosexuality was a proscribed behaviour and hence could never be tolerated in the military. The military was expected to reflect the values of Americans.

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However, 20th century was marked with rising of gay rights organizations to try to fight for recognition of homosexuals. Many defences were staged in court to defend American values with success. However, the fight for gay rights continued. Slowly peoples’ perception about homosexuality started changing. Richard Cheney, George Bush’s secretary of defence, gave up the traditional statement about blackmail and inability of homosexuals to serve in the military. In 1993 Bill Clinton as a presidential aspirant promised to sign an executive order to desegregate homosexuals. On being elected he ordered that military recruits should never been asked about homosexuality. The order allowed homosexuals to serve in the military but never openly declare to be homosexuals or commit acts of homosexuality. In my opinion this was not an actual lift of the longstanding ban because it is very difficult for the homosexuals not to commit acts of homosexuality. This is why the gay rights supporters were not satisfied with Clinton’s order.

President Clinton’s order to lift the ban on homosexuality in the military opened way for the homosexuals to continue pushing for their rights. In the years that followed, some states such as the state of Vermont enacted laws that allowed gays and lesbians to form civil unions. In the same state of Vermont, in 1999 the Supreme Court ruled that homosexuals are entitled to the same benefits of marriage as the heterosexual couples. On 22nd of December 2010 President Obama signed into law a lift of the ban on open homosexuality in the military. This put to an end “don’t ask don’t tell” order, and allowed homosexuals in the military to openly declare to be homosexuals and even commit acts of homosexuality.  This means that homosexuality will no longer be labelled as deviant behaviour in the military and hence no negative sanctions will be attached to it.

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Social control

Social control can be termed as efforts to ensure that people conform to norms. It involves all processes through which people define and react to deviant behaviour. Social control can be formal or informal. An example of an informal social control is a custom while law is an example of a formal social control. Social controls can take the form of rewards or sanctions.

Formal social control is showed through laws in form of rules and regulation as well as statutes. It is usually directed by the government and administrations through law enforcement mechanisms as well as other formal sanctions like imprisonment or fines. For example soldiers who were found to openly declare or commit acts of homosexuality were discharged from the military.

Informal social control is expressed through mores, norms and customs by the use of informal sanctions like shaming, disapproval, criticism and guilt. These rules are not explitly stated. Informal social control controls peoples’ minds as the rules ingrained in people’s personality. It is common in lower level societies (traditional societies) because the rules are embedded in the culture. Social order is maintained through socialization of its members. However, as the society becomes complex there is need for formal social control. Compliance to formal social control differs with the type of society.

In democratic societies there is voluntary compliance to social control while authoritarian governments and organization depend on force to ensure compliance.  In authoritarian administration lack of compliance leads to severe sanctions like expulsion, censorship and other restrains on freedom. To enforce formal social control such bodies as the police and the judiciary are used. Armed forces are rarely used.

There are different modes of social control namely; coercion, charismatic, genocide, emotional, normative, and instrumental. Some of these modes like genocide are unacceptable in the contemporary world. Genocide amounts to crime that punishable mainly by International Criminal Court at Hague, Netherlands. The military on many occasions use coercion to ensure compliance.

Hierarchy is heavily emphasized in the military which sometimes leads to “certain authoritarian ideology” (Caforio, 2003 p.240). There is a chain of command whereby directives flow down the chain. The chain of command is aimed at executing orders and in so doing discipline and control is introduced. The followers or subordinates are expected to follow directives of the leaders without questioning. Since in the military there id reduced interaction which is necessary for group cohesiveness and conformity to social control, the alternative modes of ensuring compliance are used. This is why the soldiers are coerced to comply.

Obedience is one of the critical norms in the military. Lack of obedience to legitimate authority amounts to serious negative sanctions. On the other hand, obedience is rewarded. Rules of coercive bureaucracies are usually described as bad and non-contributing. However coercive bureaucracy is not a wonder in any military because it is expected in any organization where there is high degree of power imbalance between managers and their employees or where there are few or no reality checks being provided by the external pressure. Most countries whose military are a coercive have been found to have a similar culture even in business organizations.

Academies of Latin countries such as France, Belgium Spain, Italy and Brazil exhibit coercive bureaucracy. Similar culture has been found in the countries’ hotel and ICT industries. Some countries however do not show coercive bureaucracy even in the military. Canada and Norway are inclined towards enabling orientation. In an enabling culture good rules predominate. The organizations hierarchy and rules enable employees to do their job. In the Canadian and Norwegian military the degree of rule orientation and power gap are relatively small. This is the same culture found in these countries’ business organizations.

In the recent past a shift from the traditional coercive to more enabling culture has been taking place within many countries’ military.  Organization’s standard operation procedures as well as their rules are changing to allow frames that enable employees to do their work properly. In the military, the soldiers have more freedom to behave more autonomously. Mutual trust between leaders and followers is slowly gaining popularity and it is a matter of time before the coercive leadership becomes obsolete.

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Culture orientation adopted by units of the one national military may be unique to the whole. It is possible to find that one unit advocates for an “enabling” orientation rather than coercive orientation found in the military at large. For example; when the Swedish air force was separated from the Swedish armed forces that was traditionally coercive, it adopted an enabling culture. Beliefs in hierarchy and authority were replaced by personal informal relations as well as openness and confidence. This kind of interaction ensured cohesiveness and consequently order and control. Where such an environment thrives there is little or no need of coercion. This shows that differences in culture can occur in one national military.

In summary, group interaction, social control and deviance are closely related. Group interaction can be a means of ensuring social control particularly if the interaction allows personal and informal relations. It is especially important for enforcing informal social control. Through socialization norms, customs and mores and ingrained into peoples’ personality hence compliance. However, in complex societies formal social control is inevitable. Laws in form of rules, regulations and statutes are written down as well as the sanctions and rewards of the same. The police and the judiciary are used to enforce them. Some societies are democratic while others are authoritarian. In democratic societies compliance to social order is voluntary whereas in authoritarian governments and administrations coercion is used. Social control is important in reducing deviant behaviour.


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Although the military is a very orderly institution pockets of deviant behaviour are evident. One of the commonest deviant behaviour in the military is homosexuality. Severe sanctions were imposed against homosexuality in the military. However, this has gradually changed and recently the president of united stated signed into law a bill seeking to allow gays and lesbians serving in the military to declare their sexual orientation as well as commit acts of homosexuality. This demonstrates the relativists’ definition of deviance that there are no permanent entities of defining deviance. What is regarded as deviance today may not be deviance tomorrow. It is also an evidence of the continuing shift from traditional coercive culture to an enabling culture aimed at helping employees work more properly.



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