Using a New Typology of Deviance to Analyze Ten Common Norms of the United States Middle-Class

Alex Heckert, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Druann Heckert, Fayetteville State University

In a recent article, we proposed a new typology that integrates normative and reactivist perspectives on deviance. This typology cross-classifies reactivist and normative definitions of deviance and more precisely distinguishes different types of deviance. Negative) deviance involves underconformity to norms and negative evaluations. Rate-busting refers to overconformity that is negatively evaluated. Deviance admiration refers to underconformity that is positively evaluated. Positive deviance refers to overconformity that is positively evaluated. Our typology compensates for deficiencies in the separate conceptions of deviance by highlighting their contradictions (e.g., reactivists fail to consider rate-busting; normativists ignore deviance admiration). In this paper, we show how these different types of deviance can be applied to ten common norms Tittle & Paternoster (2000:35) identified as operating among the U.S. middle-class. They specified the forms of classic deviance that result from underconformity to these norms (e.g., underconformity to the norm of group loyalty is apostasy; underconformity to the norm of honesty is deceitfulness). We show the importance of examining social reactions and overconformity, by identifying other forms of deviance (rate-busting, deviance admiration, and positive deviance) associated with each of these norms. For example, over-adherence to the norm of group loyalty can be negatively evaluated as fanaticism and overconformity to honesty can result in tactlessness, which are both forms of rate-busting. In summary, we use our typology to extend their classification of types of deviance.

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Updated 05/20/2006