Culture & Deviance

Culture & Deviance

The terms, culture and deviance, have always necessitated different reactions among scholars. Undeniably, social science has provided disparate connotations for both terminologies in order to suit analysis of individuals and society. On one hand, scholars define culture as a set of values, attitudes, convictions, practices and behaviors within a certain social setting. In this case, however, culture represents a determinant for the way individuals act on different occasions. Alternately, deviance, conventionally, gained delineations that equaled it to delinquency. However, in order to suit sociologists and the study of the human society, the term has evolved to describe a group of persons who do not live within the confines and norms of the society. Hence, deviance does not equate to delinquency, but rather, represents non-conformity to conventional social practices. From these instances, it is evident that there is significance in attempting to have a proper meaning of culture and deviance.

Apart from understanding culture as a collection of behaviors, Malinowski (1936) asserts that this particular facet of society constitutes categorized behaviors among individuals. Simply, culture comprises man’s overall behavior. Accordingly, the environment in which an individual influences such mannerisms. This notion further assists in understanding the different types of behaviors among people. In addition to this, culture is undeniably different in every part of the globe. The manner in which the American society is considerably different from how the British and African act in their common ways of life. From this, it is also possible to understand that culture determines manners, deeds and conduct. Such aspects of behavior are different among ethnic groups based on the way the structure of the environment imposes a considerable influence in people’s way of life.

Indeed, the impact of the environment provides a further understanding of culture. An individual’s surroundings shapes the way he or she acts. It defines the manner in which he or she should perform his or her activities in order to adapt positively to it. For instance, Malinowski’s use of the Maasai Tribe as an example illustrates these profound implications. Accordingly, due to the harsh climatic conditions that this ethnic group experience, the main livelihood that they practice involves pastoralism (Malinowski, 1936). In addition to this, their surroundings also offer a competitive platform for the tribes against other cohorts that require the resources they possess. This struggle for the acquisition and sustenance of resources among these groups has necessitated the desire for protection and defense, which, according to Malinowski (1936), have implemented derived or secondary imperatives on their lives.

Understanding that culture is a determinant of mannerism further provides an effective platform for comprehending deviance. For instance, by using the example of Maasai tribe, if one of the tribesmen were to cease from engaging in pastoralist practices and instead, focus on commercial farming, then he would be a deviant. The reason that he is a deviant is not based on his delinquency, but rather, his abandonment of normal cultural practices. The factoring of delinquency in the example is in accordance to the manner in which people understand deviance. From this illustration, deviance constitutes the movement from affixed social values, norms and practices. According to Becker (1963), deviance involves moving away from group rules, even though it is unclear to identify what is dysfunctional within a social group. For instance, dance is not dysfunctional; however, different societies deem dancers as outsiders based on the unconventional and unique lifestyles that these individuals possess (Becker, 1963).

In conclusion, understanding culture and deviance involves comprehending different forms of behaviors among individuals. The acts committed by persons on a normal basis constitute culture, which further acts as a behavioral determinant. From the assessment of mannerisms, it is also possible to understand the concept of deviance. Since culture involves acts deemed normal by society, the engagement in different types of conduct that are new to the community comprise deviance. Indeed, by declining away from habitual social practices and lifestyles, an individual becomes an outsider. Nonetheless, the notion of culture and deviance continue to enact novel responses among sociologists and scholars prompting further opportunities for research based on human life.


Becker, H. S. (1963). Outsiders: Studies in the sociology of deviance. New York, NY: Macmillan.

Malinowski, B. (1936). Culture as a determinant of behavior. The Scientific Monthly, 43(5), 440-449.


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