This essay answers two questions under; conformity, deviance and crime; and stratification, class, and inequality. The first question discusses how sociological theories differ from biological and psychological explanation of deviance while the second compares and contrasts five different theories of stratification in the modern society.
Sociological theories and the Biological and Physical Explanation of Deviance
Deviance ha been defined as any behavior that violates the socially acceptable norms and rules, and is often of sufficient severity to necessitate disapproval from the society. According to Clinard and Meier (75), deviance is a wide-ranging concept and many characteristics are employed by different members of the social order in identifying it.
The theories that have been developed to explain deviance include; the sociological, biological and physical explanation theories of deviant behaviors. Clinard and Meier (74), outline the sociological theories of explaining deviance as; the Anomie, Conflict, Labeling, Control, and the Learning or Socialization theories. The Biological and physical explanations of deviance include; biological positivism, phrenology, mental disorders, atavism, somatotyping, heredity, and genetics among others.
According to Clinard and Meier (75), the differences between these two approaches to deviance are seen in the way they explain the different forms of deviance. The sociological theories perceive deviance as being learnt from the environment. For example, a person can learn criminal behavior just like other behaviors by interacting with other criminals in intimate groups within the environment. The biological theory contrasts this assumption by asserting that deviant behavior is caused by biological instincts rather than external environmental forces. In Clinard and Meier’s point of view, the biological theory, assumes that criminals typically posses certain distinctive body types or physical traits (79).
The sociological theories further presuppose that deviance results when there is an imbalance of norms and values in the society. Clinard and Meier (75) emphasize this assertion by listing cultural, social, and economic factors as additional initiators of deviance. An example is in the case of Asian marriages where distant relatives can marry each other. This practice in the African culture will be perceived as deviant, where as in Asia it is acceptable.
The biological and physical explanation of deviance distinguishes deviant behavior as being caused by forces beyond the control or even the awareness of the individual perceived as deviant. In Clinard and Meier’s example, the biologists argue that genetic predispositions often create inborn tendencies to commit deviant acts in individuals. These tendencies are beyond people’s capability to control and are often the cause of deviant behaviors.
Theories of Stratification in Modern Day Society
According to Clinard and Meier (89), the theories of stratification in the modern society, seek to explain why inequalities exists and why certain social categories are valued more than others. The five theories of stratification are; Functionalism, Marxism, Weberianism, New Right, and the Postmodernism theories of social stratification.
The functionalism theory assumes that stratification is necessary and inevitable, and is meritocratic and fair. Clinard and Meier (93) asserts that the hierarchy that stratification creates allows complex industrial society to function. Marxism theory of stratification on the other hand perceives stratification to be a class conflict, in which case two different classes that have diametrically opposed interests exists. This theory asserts that stratification leads to capitalism, and class polarization and eventually the development of a revolutionary working class. The Weberianism theory of stratification on the hand perceives stratification as being caused by a combination of many factors like, class, status, power, and party, and not on economic position as earlier assumed.
The New Right stratification theory is more similar to the functionalism theory and assumes that stratification and inequality are the end-products of a meritocratic society properly functioning. According Clinard and Meier (96), this theory brings out another category of people, the underclass, who are dependent on the welfare payments. Postmodernism stratification theory on the other hand explains that structures such as gender, ethnicity, and class have declined in importance. Unlike the other theories which emphasizes on the relations of production, this theory perceives the relations of consumption as more important.
In respect to poverty and exclusion, these theories, assert that it is necessary for the poor to exist to enable the society to function properly.
In conclusion, sociologist explains deviant behavior as the result of an interaction with the wrong environment or as a result of unfavorable economic, social, and political conditions. Biologists on the hand perceive deviant behaviors to be caused by personality, genetic, and other biological abnormalities. The theories of stratification have been employed to explain why there exist inequalities in the society. Theses theories explain why poverty and social seclusion persists.