According to sociologist Travis Hirschi in his article Control Theory of Delinquency, the act of deviating from the norms in a given society is caused mainly, not by the social structure, but by the deviant himself and the strength of his connection to that society. In this paper I will try to answer the question of whether this, while it may not be wholly responsible, has contributed to the identity of deviant held by Jon, a conservative Republican living in eastern Massachusetts. But a major question that I will also try to answer is whether Jon's deviance is the result of him deviating from the society he lives in, or the society around him deviating from what once was more of a norm, and that he has simply refused to change along with it.
Persons who have a particular stigma tend to have similar learning experiences regarding their plight, and similar changes in conception of self a similar moral career that is both cause and effect of commitment to a similar sequence of personal adjustments (Goffman 32).
[...] In looking at the case of the deviant I interviewed, Jon, a conservative Republican living in the blue state of Massachusetts, I looked at some of these theories to try and get different perspectives of deviance like Jon's, and also to try and answer two questions: does Jon's distance from the rest of society make a significant contribution to his deviant identity, and is Jon a deviant, not because he actively changed into one, but because the society around him, and the norms in turn, changed and not him? [...]
[...] In order to be a deviant, you simply have to go against the norm, but Goffman seems to assume that the person actively becomes a deviant, changing their conception of themselves in order to contradict these norms, rather than the norms actively changing to go against the deviant. Kathleen Blee, whose article follows, estimates that there are fewer than 50,000 “racist activists” in the United States, “with as many as 200,000 sympathizers.” Moreover, these figures suggest sharp declines from the early twentieth century, when millions of Americans joined white supremacist organizations and a decline, too, from the 1980's, when their numbers were several times higher than what they are today (Goode, Vail 103). [...]
[...] Jon: I think it's .particularly in a state like Massachusetts, in an area like greater Boston, it's wise to to hide your affiliation, your your leanings, in the interest of calm, and “civil order.” Jon obviously feels like somewhat of an outcast due to his deviance and therefore keeps mainly to himself. And since he is mostly a “potentially stigmatized person,” rather than someone whose deviance is obvious and conspicuous, according to Pitcher, his moral career “does not necessarily assume a fixed pattern of interaction given a particular locale or group, as suggested by Goffman” (Pitcher 2). [...]
[...] Jon: A lot of reasons, not the least of which is I didn't know my backside from a hole in the ground back then. Even though Jon grew up surrounded by conservative influences, he still hadn't assumed a real conservative identity for himself yet. But in a way, this could be considered the first phase of his moral career where he “learns and incorporates the standpoint of the normal, acquiring thereby the identity beliefs of the wider society and a general idea of what it would be like to possess a particular stigma” (Goffman 32). [...]
[...] It gets to the heart of the matter in that it names the reason why Jon is a deviant: it's not that he has too weak of a connection to society, but that he is “committed to a value system different from that of conventional society (Hirschi 81). Basically, it's the differing value system itself that makes Jon a deviant. If he had the same value system as the society around him, he would be just as liberal as the mostly left wing area he lives in. [...]
using our reader.