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Deviance is Relative

Deviance is relative means that there is no absolute way of defining a deviant act. Deviance can be defined in relation to a particular standard and no standards are fixed or absolute. As such deviance varies from time to time and place to place. In a particular society an act that is considered deviant today may be detained as normal in future. Social deviance should not be confused with statistical rarity. People whose behavior or characteristics are found only in a minority of the population are statistically unusual but that does not necessarily make them socially deviant.

Most people who escape discovery of their deviant behavior are not stigmatized as deviants and generally do not even regard themselves as deviant at all.

No act is inherently deviant. It becomes deviant only when it is socially defined as such and definitions vary greatly from time to time, place to place and group to group. Deviance can be defined in relation to a particular standard and no standards are fixed or absolute.

Deviance is both a threat and protection to social stability. On the one hand society can operate efficiently only if there is order and predictability in social life. Deviant behavior threatens social order.

Deviant behavior is one way of adapting a culture to social change. No society can remain static forever. The deviant behavior of few persons may be the beginning of a new norm. As more and more people join in it ceases to be deviant a new norm is established.

The fact that a particular norm is often violated does not create a norm of evasion. It is only when there is a pattern of violation that is recognized and sanctioned by one's group that we have a norm of evasion. Sometimes a pattern of deviation is neither sufficiently accepted to be a norm of evasion nor sufficiently condemned to be routinely suppressed. In such situations the tolerance of such deviation may operate as a form of social control.