PDF_Week2.pdf

Week 2 Lecture: Some
points on the

Sociological Imagination
and Definitions of

Deviance

The Sociological Imagination
• C. Wright Mills

• Sociological Imagination: A quality of the mind that allows
us to understand the relationship between our particular
situation in life and what is happening at a social level

• “Intersection between biography and history” (and social
structure)
• Mills says, “To understand social life, we must

understand the intersection between biography and
history.”
• How individuals understand their own and others’

past in relation to history and social structure
• Helps us connect personal troubles to structure

and change

2

Are these Actions
deviant?
• Using marijuana
• Picking you nose
• Using your phone while driving
• Drinking alcohol under age 21
• Wearing a hat indoors
• Using an online dating application
• Speeding
• Watching pornography

• Maybe – Becker says it depends on
who views it and how they react

3

What is Deviance?

• Deviance is a behavior, trait, or belief
that departs from a norm and
generates a negative reaction in a
particular group or setting.
• Defining something as deviant

requires us to examine group or
contextual norms and how groups
react to behaviors

• Folkways:
• Mores:

4

What is
Deviance?

• Deviance is a behavior, trait, or belief that
departs from a norm and generates a negative
reaction in a particular group or setting.
• Defining something as deviant requires us

to examine group or contextual norms and
how groups react to behaviors

• Folkways: less serious (e.g., holding a door
open for someone, maintaining eye contact
in a conversation, wearing a seatbelt)

• Mores: more serious (e.g., driving drunk,
homicide)

5

Relativistic view on
deviance
• Again, deviance is just a departure from norms
• Sociologists take a relative (not an absolute) view of

deviance
• Variability:

• Culture
• Historical period
• Age
• Social status
• Location, situation, timing (i.e., context) è Example
• Note, deviance is not based on rarity

6

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