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Social Deviancy and Its Theoretical Foundations

Society Case Study Project

John Rommel was born in 1955 to a lower class family in New York. His father had immigrated over to the United States from Germany prior to the rise of Hitler in 1933. He desired to show pride in his new country, so he worked hard at the docks to earn a living for his family. While he was never made much, he always stressed pride in his work and obeyed the law. He believed this was a firm foundation for becoming successful.

John always showed a bright mind and highly intuitive nature, but he never showed any desire for schooling. He saw society as an unfair, unforgiving system that repressed those of lower social status. John was not a violent person; he considered himself very honorable, but he did not have a desire to work like his father did, earning low wages for hours of tedious work to support his family. Instead, he opted for more illegal endeavors—gambling, stealing, and even dabbling in organized crime. However, he never told his father because he did not want to disrespect his family. When he turned 17, he became a drug-runner for the Gambino family because a couple of his close “brothers” had become involved in the business as well.

Soon John became involved with more than just drug running; he began to assist the family with offering “protective services” to different shops and businesses in Brooklyn’s lower east side. Should the businesses miss a payment or refuse their help, he would instigate certain actions against the business to cause severe damage, enough to ensure the business owner would seek their protection from then on.

Eventually, John’s employment with organized crime caught up to him as he was arrested at the age of 25. When he appeared in court, his defense suggested that he plead guilty as the prosecution had enough evidence to convict him anyway. When he was sentenced the judge decided to send him to prison for five years, with a potential of being released after three years for good behavior. John noticed his parents sitting in the audience at the hearing, and he began to feel a great sense of shame for what he had done and believed he had brought shame to his family.

Based on what you have just read, answer the following questions:
1. Why would John be considered a deviant? What social foundations of deviance appear to be evident in this case?
2. Examine the three theoretical foundations of deviance (structural-functional, symbolic-interaction, and social-conflict). Determine which foundation applies to John’s situation and why. Give specific examples.
3. Choose three theories, one within each theoretical foundation, that apply to this case. If a foundation does not have an applicable theory, state why and what behavior could have been exhibited that would have reflected that.

Solution Preview

1. Why would John be considered a deviant?
Within sociology, deviance is considered to describe any actions or behaviours that violate social norms. In this case, it would be appropriate to understand the social norms that existed during this time period. Social norms are not only rules but expectations by which members of society are conventionally guided.

John being considered deviant is actually a process by which others have come to view him as deviant based on his actions, accepted beliefs at the time, and the social conditions that exist relating to his actions.

The following article provides a synopsis for how sociologists view deviance:
Sociology of Deviance and Crime
http://sociology.about.com/od/Disciplines/a/Sociology-Of-Deviance-Crime.htm

The time period we are looking at for John's "deviancy" is approximately 1965 to 1980. In general, the 1960s was the dawn of Civil Rights action taken on in Legislature. In addition to the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Immigration Act, Elementary and Secondary School Education Act, Medical Care Programs, and the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Arts were all created.

In many parts of the world, the changes made in the 1960s were taking the world in a "new" direction if it wasn't realized at the time. In New York, there were still very strong social views of White Americans against immigrants. John being a first generation American, he would likely still be viewed as an "immigrant." ...

Solution Summary

This solution provides the student with an analysis of a particular case study of the young life of a person deemed a "social deviant." The student will be able to identify why this individual is considered a deviant based on social foundations of deviance as well as examine theoretical foundations of deviance that apply to this particular case study.

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