The Production of Deviance
in Capitalist Society
Ch. 5, Steven Spitzer
Deviance within capitalist society
 the capitalist mode of production has two key
 it forms the foundation or infrastructure of society
 it contains internal contradictions
 Marxist theory illustrates the relationship
between specific contradictions, the problems of
capitalist development, and the production of a
“deviant class”
Infrastructure & Superstructure
 superstructure: the ideologies that dominate a
particular era, all that "men say, imagine,
conceive," including such things as "politics,
laws, morality, religion, metaphysics, etc."
 emerges from and reflects the ongoing development
of economic forces (infrastructure)
 in class societies, the superstructure preserves the
hegemony of the ruling class through a system of
class controls, which are institutionalized in:
 family, church, private associations, media, schools & the
 key function of the superstructure is the regulation
and management of “problem populations”
Problem populations become eligible for
management as deviant when they
disturb, hinder, or call into question:
 capitalist modes of appropriation
 social conditions of production
 patterns of distribution & consumption
 capitalist socialization processes
 ideology which supports capitalism
problem populations
 tend to share social characteristics
 most important is the fact that their behavior,
personal qualities, and/or position threaten
the social relations of production in capitalist
 are not synonymous w/deviant populations
 some members of problem populations are
successfully transformed into supporters it
capitalist order; the rest are “candidates for
deviance processing” (68)
Problem populations are created in
2 ways
 directly, as a product of the contradictions
of capitalism
 by creating a “relative surplus population,” i.e.,
people who are unemployed and disposable,
whose labor is not required for the system
 indirectly, through disturbances in the
system of class rule
 when institutions, e.g., mass education, fails
to promote the values of bourgeois/capitalist
Official social control creates two
kinds of problem populations
 social junk
 social dynamite
social junk
 a group that fails to participate in the roles
supportive of capitalist society
 they are viewed as costly yet relatively harmless
by the dominant class
 e.g., the officially administered aged, the
handicapped, the mentally ill and mentally
 social control is managed by the therapeutic &
welfare state, i.e., programs like Social Security,
Medicare, and Medicaid
social dynamite
 a group with the potential to call into
question established relationships, esp.
relations of production and domination
 poses a more acute problem that requires
rapid and focused expenditures
 tends to be more youthful, alienated, and
politically more volatile than social junk
 Social control is handled by the
legal/criminal justice system
Ch. 4: Blowing Smoke: Status
Politics and the Shasta County
Smoking Ban
Ch. 4, Justin L. Tuggle and
Malcom D. Holmes, pp. 53-66.
Is the association of tobacco with lowerstatus persons a factor in the crusade
against smoking in public places?
 Historically, attempts to control psychoactive
substances have linked their use to categories of
relatively powerless people:
 marijuana & Mexican Americans
 opiates & Asians
 alcohol & immigrant Catholics
 Recent evidence has shown that occupational
status, education, and family income are related
negatively to current smoking
 Relationship of occupation & education to smoking have
become stronger
Moral entrepreneurs vs
status quo defenders
 Moral entrepreneurs crusading for ban
argued that secondhand smoke damages
public health and that people have a right
to a smoke-free environment
 Status quo defenders countered that
smokers have a constitutional right to
indulge wherever and whenever they see
Differential Punishing of African
Americans and Whites Who
Possess Drugs: A Just Policy or a
Continuation of the Past?
Ch. 10, Rudolph Alexander, Jr.
and Jacquelyn Gyamerah
The origins & course of differential
punishing of African Americans
 Under slavery in the US, controlling slaves
required slave owners to subject slaves to
sanctions for behaviors that were not offenses if
committed by Whites, e.g.,
leaving the plantation without a pass
being out of one’s quarters after curfew
being in a group of more than 5 slaves without a
White man present
owning firearms or animals, buying alcohol,
giving medicine to Whites, working in a
drugstore, working in a print shop
Differential punishing, post-Slavery
 Wanting to increase the #s of Africans in prisons in order to control
them more effectively, Southern states enacted a series of laws,
 several states increased penalties for stealing livestock, making it grand
 To counter this trend, Congress passed the 14th Amendment,
specifically, its “equal protection clause”
 adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction
 Equal Protection Clause requires each state to provide equal
protection under the law to all people within its jurisdiction
 basis for Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Supreme Court
decision that precipitated the dismantling of racial segregation in US
 also contains a Citizenship Clause and Due Process Clause
 But differential punishing continued

On the Sociology of Deviance - Deviance & Social Pathology