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. In order to get more diverse views on this particular case of deviance, it's important to look at the works of sociologists and hear what they had to say about topics and cases relevant to this one.
[...] 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? [...]
[...] Because he was, at the time, still relatively liberal, this could be considered the phase where he “incorporates the standpoint of the normal,” which in this case, is the liberal. I think in terms of becoming a conservative or developing conservative ideas uh attitudes um I think the time I spent working in a large hospital was a substantial influence. Seeing specifically seeing the damage that the welfare system of this country, of this state um can do to an individual uh to an individual's spirit, an individual's sense of of industry. [...]
[...] As Pitcher would put it, he is “isolated due to [his] own perception of having a stigma,” feeling that it would be futile to try to become social with the norm when he considers himself a deviant (though not in those exact words) (Pitcher 1). Jon: In Brookline, Brookline being a very liberal um town it's um you're definitely a minority. GH: Are you open about your politics, or do you hide them in any way? 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. [...]
[...] Could it be that Massachusetts has become much more liberal between Jon's early adulthood and today, meaning that, like the white supremacists, people with conservative beliefs are considered more deviant, not because they've gone through a significant change, but because Massachusetts has become less accepting of their beliefs? the control theory assumes the existence of a common value system within the society or group whose norms are being violated. If the deviant is committed to a value system different from that of conventional society, there is, within the context of the theory, nothing to explain . [...]
[...] Was Massachusetts more conservative earlier in Jon's life, making him more of a normal early on? Was it the deviant who changed, or the norm? 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 themself 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). [...]
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