Skip to main content



The term 'accommodation' refers to several sorts of working agreements between rival groups that permit at least limited cooperation between them even though the issues dividing them remain unsettled. It does not technically end the conflict, but holds it in abeyance. The accommodation may last for only a short time and may be for the purpose of allowing the conflicting parties to consolidate their positions and to prepare for further conflict. Or, as is more often the case, the initial accommodation agreed upon by the parties may be part of the process of seeking solutions to the issues that divide them. If those solutions are not found, the accommodation itself may become permanent. Definition of Accommodation:

  1. The famous psychologist J.M. Baldwin was the first to use the concept of accommodation. According to him, the term denotes acquired changes in the behaviour of individuals which help them to adjust to their environment.
  2. Mac Irer says that the term accommodation refers particularly to the process in which man attains a sense of harmony with his environment.
  3. Lundberg is of the opinion that the word accommodation has been used to designate the adjustments which people in groups make to relieve the fatigue and tensions of competition and conflict.
  4. According to Ogburn and Nimkoff Accommodation is a term used by the sociologists to describe the adjustment of hostile individuals or groups.
It is clear from the above that accommodation assumes various forms. Without accommodation social life could hardly go on. Accommodation checks conflicts and helps persons and groups to maintain cooperation. It enables person and groups to adjust themselves to changes functions and status which is brought about by changed conditions. The only way in which conflicts between groups may be eliminated permanently is through assimilation. Formally, assimilation is the process whereby group differences gradually disappear. Issues are based upon differences. When the differences disappear so do the issue and the conflict.


The term 'assimilation' again is in general use, being applied most often to the process whereby large numbers of migrants from Europe were absorbed into the American population during the 19th and the early part of the 20th century. The assimilation of immigrants was a dramatic and highly visible set of events and illustrates the process well. There are other types of assimilation, however, and there are aspects of the assimilation of European migrants that might be put in propositional form. First, assimilation is a two-way process. Second, assimilation of groups as well as individuals takes place. Third some assimilation probably occurs in all lasting interpersonal situations. Fourth, assimilation is often incomplete and creates adjustment problems for individuals. And, fifth, assimilation does not proceed equally rapidly and equally effectively in all inter-group situations.

  1. According to Young and Mack, Assimilation is the fusion or blending of two previously distinct groups into one.
  2. For Bogardus Assimilation is the social process whereby attitudes of many persons are united and thus develop into a united group.
  3. Biesanz describes Assimilation is the social process whereby individuals or groups come to share the same sentiments and goals.
  4. For Ogburh and Nimkoff; Assimilation is the process whereby individuals or groups once dissimilar become similar and identified in their interest and outlook.

Assimilation is a slow and a gradual process. It takes time. For example, immigrants take time to get assimilated with majority group. Assimilation is concerned with the absorption and incorporation of the culture by another.


This term is used to describe both the process of contacts between different cultures and also the customs of such contacts. As the process of contact between cultures, acculturation may involve either direct social interaction or exposure to other cultures by means of the mass media of communication. As the outcome of such contact, acculturation refers to the assimilation by one group of the culture of another which modifies the existing culture and so changes group identity. There may be a tension between old and new cultures which leads to the adapting of the new as well as the old.

Social Groups

A social group consists of two or more people who interact with one another and who recognize themselves as a distinct social unit. The definition is simple enough, but it has significant implications. Frequent interaction leads people to share values and beliefs. This similarity and the interaction cause them to identify with one another. Identification and attachment, in turn, stimulate more frequent and intense interaction. Each group maintains solidarity with all to other groups and other types of social systems.

Groups are among the most stable and enduring of social units. They are important both to their members and to the society at large. Through encouraging regular and predictable behavior, groups form the foundation upon which society rests. Thus, a family, a village, a political party a trade union is all social groups. These, it should be noted are different from social classes, status groups or crowds, which not only lack structure but whose members are less aware or even unaware of the existence of the group. These have been called quasi-groups or groupings. Nevertheless, the distinction between social groups and quasi-groups is fluid and variable since quasi-groups very often give rise to social groups, as for example, social classes give rise to political parties

Primary Groups

If all groups are important to their members and to society, some groups are more important than others. Early in the twentieth century, Charles H. Cooley gave the name, primary groups, to those groups that he said are characterized by intimate face-to-face association and those are fundamental in the development and continued adjustment of their members. He identified three basic primary groups, the family, the child's play group, and the neighborhoods or community among adults. These groups, he said, are almost universal in all societies; they give to people their earliest and most complete experiences of social unity; they are instrumental in the development of the social life; and they promote the integration of their members in the larger society. Since Cooley wrote, over 65 years ago, life in the United States has become much more urban, complex, and impersonal, and the family play group and neighborhood have become less dominant features of the social order.

Secondary groups, characterized by anonymous, impersonal, and instrumental relationships, have become much more numerous. People move frequently, often from one section of the country to another and they change from established relationships and promoting widespread loneliness. Young people, particularly, turn to drugs, seek communal living groups and adopt deviant lifestyles in attempts to find meaningful primary-group relationships. The social context has changed so much so that primary group relationship today is not as simple as they were in Cooley's time.

Secondary groups

An understanding of the modern industrial society requires an understanding of the secondary groups. The social groups other than those of primary groups may be termed as secondary groups. They are a residual category. They are often called special interest groups.Maclver and Page refers to them as great associations. They are of the opinion that secondary groups have become almost inevitable today. Their appearance is mainly due to the growing cultural complexity. Primary groups are found predominantly in societies where life is relatively simple. With the expansion in population and territory of a society however interests become diversified and other types of relationships which can be called secondary or impersonal become necessary. Interests become differentiated. The services of experts are required. The new range of the interests demands a complex organization. Especially selected persons act on behalf of all and hence arises a hierarchy of officials called bureaucracy. These features characterize the rise of the modern state, the great corporation, the factory, the labor union, a university or a nationwide political party and so on. These are secondary groups.Ogburn and Nimkoff defines secondary groups as groups which provide experience lacking in intimacy. Frank D. Watson writes that the secondary group is larger and more formal ,is specialized and direct in its contacts and relies more for unity and continuance upon the stability of its social organization than does the primary group.

Characteristics of secondary group:

Dominance of secondary relations: Secondary groups are characterized by indirect, impersonal, contractual and non-inclusive relations. Relations are indirect because secondary groups are bigger in size and members may not stay together. Relations are contractual in the sense they are oriented towards certain interests

Largeness of the size: Secondary groups are relatively larger in size. City, nation, political parties, trade unions and corporations, international associations are bigger in size. They may have thousands and lakhs of members. There may not be any limit to the membership in the case of some secondary groups.

Membership: Membership in the case of secondary groups is mainly voluntary. Individuals are at liberty to join or to go away from the groups. However there are some secondary groups like the state whose membership is almost involuntary.

No physical basis: Secondary groups are not characterized by physical proximity. Many secondary groups are not limited to any definite area. There are some secondary groups like the Rotary Club and Lions Club which are international in character. The members of such groups are scattered over a vast area.

Specific ends or interest: Secondary groups are formed for the realization of some specific interests or ends. They are called special interest groups. Members are interested in the groups because they have specific ends to aim at. Indirect communication: Contacts and communications in the case of secondary groups are mostly indirect. Mass media of communication such as radio, telephone, television, newspaper, movies, magazines and post and telegraph are resorted to by the members to have communication.

Communication may not be quick and effective even. Impersonal nature of social relationships in secondary groups is both the cause and the effect of indirect communication.

Nature of group control: Informal means of social control are less effective in regulating the relations of members. Moral control is only secondary. Formal means of social control such as law, legislation, police, court etc are made of to control the behavior of members. The behavior of the people is largely influenced and controlled by public opinion, propaganda, rule of law and political ideologies. Group structure: The secondary group has a formal structure. A formal authority is set up with designated powers and a clear-cut division of labor in which the function of each is specified in relation to the function of all. Secondary groups are mostly organized groups. Different statuses and roles that the members assume are specified. Distinctions based on caste, colour, religion, class, language etc are less rigid and there is greater tolerance towards other people or groups.

Limited influence on personality: Secondary groups are specialized in character. People involvement in them is also of limited significance.Members's attachment to them is also very much limited. Further people spend most of their time in primary groups than in secondary groups. Hence secondary groups have very limited influence on the personality of the members.

Reference Groups

According to Merton reference groups are those groups which are the referring points of the individuals, towards which he is oriented and which influences his opinion, tendency and behaviour.The individual is surrounded by countless reference groups. Both the memberships and inner groups and non memberships and outer groups may be reference groups.

Social System

A social system basically consists of two or more individuals interacting directly or indirectly in a bounded situation. There may be physical or territorial boundaries, but the fundamental sociological point of reference is that the individuals are oriented, in a whole sense, to a common focus or inter-related foci. Thus it is appropriate to regard such diverse sets of relationships as small groups, political parties and whole societies as social systems. Social systems are open systems, exchanging information with, frequently acting with reference to other systems. Modern conceptions of the term can be traced to the leading social analysts of the nineteenth century, notably Auguste Comte, Karl Marx, Herbert Spencer and Emile Durkheim; each of whom elaborated in some form or other conceptions of the major units of social systems (mainly societies) and the relationships between such units- even though the expression social system was not a key one. Thus, in Marx's theory, the major units or components of the capitalist societies with which he was principally concerned were socio-economic classes, and the major relationships between classes involved economic and political power. The most influential conceptualization of the term has been that of Talcott Parsons. Parsons' devotion to this issue has two main aspects.

First, what is called the problem of social order; i.e. the nature of the forces giving rise to relatively stable forms of social interaction and organization, and promoting orderly change. Parsons took Thomas Hobbes Leviathan, 1651, as his point of departure in this part of his analysis. Hobbes had maintained that man's fundamental motivation was the craving for power and that men were always basically in conflict with each other. Thus order could only exist in strong government. To counter this Parsons invoked the work of Max Weber and, in particular, Durkheim, who had placed considerable emphasis on the functions of normative, factors in social life, such as ideals and values. Factors of this kind came to constitute the mainspring in Parsons Delineation of a social system. Thus in his major theoretical work, The Social system, 1951, he defines a social system as consisting in a plurality of individual actors interacting with each other in a situation which has at least a physical or environmental aspect, actors, who are motivated in terms of a tendency to the optimization of gratification and whose relations to their situations, including each other, is defined and mediated in terms of a system of culturally structured and shared symbols. The major units of a social system are said to be collectivities and roles (i.e. not individuals as such); and the major patterns or relationships linking these units are values (ends or broad guides to action) and norms (rules governing role performance in the context of system values). Parsons second major interest has been to make sociology more scientific and systematic, by developing abstract conceptions of the social system; one of this points being that even though Weber placed much emphasis upon normative factors as guiding action, there was in Weber's sociology no elaboration of a theoretically integrated total system of action. Hence the attempt to combine in one framework both a conception of actors in social situations and an overall, highly abstract, outside view of the major factors involved in a social system as a going concern. Various points in Parsons' formulation have been criticized. Notably, objections have been made to the emphasis upon normative regulation, and it has been alleged that Parsons neglected social conflict under the pressure of his systematic perspective; i.e. pre-occupation with system ness and analytical elegance which blinds the sociologist to disconsensus in real life and spurs him to stress integrative phenomena in his analyses. However, it is widely agreed that sociologists should operate with some clearly defined conception of what constitutes a social system. Thus, for many sociologists the term social system is not by any means restricted to those situations where there is binding normative regulation; but in order to qualify as social system it must involve a common focus, or set of foci, or orientations and a shared mode of communication among a majority of actors. Thus, on this basis there can be a system of conflict.

Status and Role

The term has two sociological uses:

1. R. Linton (1936) defined status simply as a position in a social system, such as child or parent. Status refers to what a person is, whereas the closely linked notion of role refers to the behaviour expected of people in a status.

2. Status is also used as a synonym for honor or prestige, when social status denotes the relative position of a person on a publicly recognized scale or hierarchy of social worth. (See 'Social Stratification').

It is the first meaning of the term status, status as position, which we are going to refer to in the following paragraphs. Status as honour or prestige is a part of the study of social stratification.

A status is simply a rank or position that one holds in a group. One occupies the status of son or daughter, playmate, pupil, radical, militant and so on. Eventually one occupies the statuses of husband, mother bread-winner, cricket fan, and so on, one has as many statuses as there are groups of which one is a member. For analytical purposes, statuses are divided into two basic types:

Ascribed Statuses

Ascribed statuses are those which are fixed for an individual at birth. Ascribed statuses that exist in all societies include those based upon sex, age, race ethnic group and family background.

Similarly, power, prestige, privileges, and obligations always are differentially distributed in societies by the age of the participants. This has often been said about the youth culture in the U.S. because of the high value Americans attach to being young. Pre-modern China, by contrast, attached the highest value to old age and required extreme subordination of children. The perquisites and obligations accompany age change over the individual's lifetime, but the individual proceeds inexorably through these changes with no freedom of choice.

As the discussion implies, the number and rigidity of ascribed statuses vary from one society to another. Those societies in which many statuses are rigidly prescribed and relatively unchangeable are called caste societies, or at least, caste like. Among major nations, India is a caste society. In addition to the ascribed statuses already discussed, occupation and the choice of marriage partners in traditional India are strongly circumscribed by accident of birth. Such ascribed statuses stand in contrast to achieved statuses.

Achieved Statuses

Achieved statuses are those which the individual acquires during his or her lifetime as a result of the exercise of knowledge, ability, skill and/or perseverance. Occupation provides an example of status that may be either ascribed or achieved, and which serves to differentiate caste-like societies from modern ones. Societies vary in both the number of statuses that are ascribed and achieved and in the rigidity with which such definitions are held. Both ascribed and achieved statuses exist in all societies. However, an understanding of a specific society requires that the interplay among these be fully understood. For Weber class is a creation of the market situation. Class operates in society independently of any valuations. As Weber did not believe in the economic phenomena determining human ideals, he distinguishes status situation from class situation.

According to Linton, status is associated with distinctive beliefs about the expectations of those having status, as for example, the status of children. Other common bases for status are age, sex, birth, genealogy and other biological constitutional characteristics. However, status, according to Linton, is only a phenomenon, not the intrinsic characteristic of man but of social organization. What matters is not what you really are, but what people believe you to be. At times, some confuse the two terms, status and role. Status defines who a person is, as for example, he is a child or a Negro, or a doctor; whereas, role defines what such a person is expected to do, as for example, he is too young to work, he should care about parents etc.

A common method of identifying the statuses in a social system is to discover the list of status-designators, as for example, kinship status typically begins with a list of kin terms and their usage. One other characteristic feature of status, as understood today, is that any person can have more than one status. Generally, no status in any social situation encompasses one person. Also, it has to be kept in mind those statuses and persons are not only distinct concepts but also at distinct levels of analysis. Besides, in sociology it is status, rather than person, which is more useful as a tool of analysis.

Why we should treat these two terms as separate can be argued on various grounds. First, two persons having quite different characters may possess similar observable conduct if they have the same status, as for example, very acquisitive and very altruistic doctors may behave in much the same way. Secondly, two persons having the same character, very often, have different observable conduct because of having two different statuses. Thirdly, even two persons having similar characters but having two different statuses show very often different observable conduct, as for example, a docile son and a kind father.

Thus, in society, which in reality is a social system where interaction occurs between actors, status but not person in important. If we treat person as the unit of such a system we must discover a basic personality structure which is an impossible task. On the other hand, it is easy to comprehend status although it is an abstract concept. Status is the most elementary component of the social system which is equally abstract.

Interaction between two actors occurs not as persons but as two having statuses. A social position is always defined in relation to a counter position, as for example, a doctor to a patient, to a nurse, and to the hospital administrator. In other words, the basic unit of analysis for social system is not status itself but the relation of two statuses. The first writer to do considerable work in this field was Merton in 1957. According to him, there are three aspects of status. To illustrate, Mr. Pandey is a doctor must have social relations with nurses, patients, other doctors, hospital administrators, and so on, that is, a role set. If Mr. Pandey is also a husband, a father, a member of Hare-Krishna cult and a municipal councilor, it is a status set. And the process, by which Mr. Pandey became a doctor, required that he first be a medical student, then an intern and then a resident, that is, a status sequence. Since what is known as status is related to other statuses, the interaction of statuses is a very crucial one. Stable interaction systems depend on the emergence of normative expectations. Once it emerges, such expectations are not created anew every time. Two new actors encounter each other. The idea underlying this statement is that every actor is sensitive to the attitudes others will have towards him. Every actor, therefore, tends to feel tense and upset if he is unable to define the social situation in such a way that the behaviour of the other is predictable.

A more dynamic feature of this series of social interactions is the idea that each action implies a status and each status action. Therein each actor reveals how he defines a situation by the way he behaves, and thus provides other actors with cues to their own statuses in the situation.

Although the interaction of statuses is normally satisfactory, at times, confusion might arise because of status ambiguity. If, however, an actor has more than one status, the attitudes of any two statuses may be either compatible or incompatible with their demands on the person. If two statuses that are activated in the same situation are incompatible it would be difficult for each status occupant to know how to interact with the other, because it will be difficult for him to know which status is the basis of their interaction. Such ambiguities are a source of strain and discomfort and people either get out of such situations or wish that they be changed.

The term social role is borrowed by social scientists originally from the Greek Drama. The word person comes from the Latin word persona, which originally meant a mask. Greek actors wore masks when they performed in their drama. This leads us directly to the definition of the concept of social role. A social role is a set of social norms that govern a person's behaviour in a group and determine his relationships with other group members. Put somewhat differently a role is the expected pattern of behavior associated with a given social status. Status and role are reciprocal aspects of the same phenomenon. Status, or position, is the static aspect that fixes the individual's position in a group; role is the dynamic behavioral aspect that defines how the person who occupies the status should behave in different situations.

Individuals in a society behave according to certain standard patterns of behaviour or roles. These standard patterns of behaviour are determined by the social position or the status which the individual occupies in society because it is these social positions which lay down norms by indicating which individual should observe which norms. In other words, status refers to a collection of norms; and each society classifies its members into a more or less elaborate system of statuses. Each of the statuses involves a role, set of behaviour or action-patterns that people belonging to a given status are expected to perform. One plays as many roles as he has statuses. A given man may both concurrently and sequentially enact the roles of husband, father bread-winner, and football fan and so on. Social roles may be linked to blue-prints for behaviour that are handed to the individual, hypothetically, when he becomes a member of a group. As such these constitute the group's expectations concerning how one would behave. Thus, whereas the status of a person tells us what he is, his role will tell us what he does as a member of a status group. Despite this fundamental difference between the two, statuses and roles are very closely interlinked. There are no roles without statuses and no statuses without roles. Indeed, there are some exceptions. Though all statuses imply some role or roles, it is not always possible to infer people's statuses from what they do, as for example, two persons, who bear the title of knighthood and thus holding same social positions, might be performing completely different roles. Also, many statuses are wholly or partly defined with reference to roles which their occupants are expected to perform. Example policemen, poets, etc.

The importance of role was recognized from 1936 when Linton presented the first systematic statement identifying role as a segment of culture. He also held the view that role was related to social status. Much work has been done after Linton in the form of experimental study. Many studies have shown that lack of clarity and consensus in role conceptions is a contributory factor in reducing organizational effectiveness and morale.

Since the concept is being extensively used, some differences appear in its usage. Some writers treat role and actual behavior of an individual to be one and the same. Most of the writers treat role as expected behavior and role behavior as an enactment. Another interpretation is that role is a specific behavior or conditioned response. Finally, some treat role as a part to be learnt and played.

Despite these differences, all sociologists agree to the following characteristics of role. It is believed that when roles are stabilized, the role structure persists regardless of changes in the actors. In some families when the parents become disorganized and become childish, a child suddenly blossoms into responsibility and helps to supply the family leadership. As the roles get stabilized, an individual adopts a given role; and if he fails to fulfill the role expectation, he will be regarded as a violator of the terms of interaction.

The above functioning of the role is determined, to some extent, by the organizational setting which supplies both direction and constraint to the working of the as for said processes. If the role structure is incorporated in an organizational setting, the latter's goals tend to become the crucial criteria for role differentiation, legitimacy of expectation, and judgments of adequacy.

Secondly, depending on the level of integration with the organizational setting, roles get linked with statuses in the organization.

Thirdly, depending on the extent to which the roles are incorporated with an organizational setting, each tends to develop a pattern of adaptation to incorporate other roles. A teacher in a public school must incorporate within his role pattern, his role adaptations to pupils, parents, other teachers and the principal. Merton describes several mechanisms that are employed to minimize conflict in the role-set.

Fourthly, when roles are incorporated with the organisational setting they persist as tradition and formalization. Finally, the place of role is determined by society itself; for, society is based on accommodation among many organizations. Society introduces multiple organisational references for roles, and multiplies roles for the actor. A view from society's perspective shows that roles in different contexts tend to become merged. One example is our tendency to speak of male and female roles of heroic and unheroic roles while seeking meaning and order in simple human interactions. Viewed from the perspective of society, differentiation of roles gets linked with social values. If the societies and the individuals' assigned roles are consistent with each other the roles tend to get merged with social values. A glaring example is our tendency to use age, sex and occupation as qualifying criteria for the allocation of other roles.

In the end we have to say that it is actor who faces the strain; for, the dynamic hinges on his management of the several roles in his repertoire. This may come about through failure of role cues, gross lack of consensus and so forth. This situation results in an individual adopting his own repertoire of role relationship as a framework for his own behaviour, and as a perspective for the interpretation of the behaviour of others. When the individual forms a self-conception by selective identification of certain roles as his own to be held in his repertoire, the individual is said to develop a sense of personal prestige, which is likely to be reflected in his bearing, his self-assurance and other aspects of his interpersonal relations.

In general, the concept of role is crucial in all sociological analyses which attempt to link the functioning of the social orders with the characteristics and behaviour of the individuals who belong to that order. A study of roles provides a comprehensive pattern of social behaviour and attitudes. It constitutes a strategy for coping with a recurrent type of situation. It is socially identified as an entity. It can be played recognizably by different individuals, and it supplies a major basis for identifying and placing persons in a society.


Socialization is predominately an unconscious process by which a newborn child learns the values, beliefs, rules and regulations of society or internalizes the culture in which it is born. Socialization, in fact, includes learning of three important processes: (1) cognitive; (2) affective, and (3) evaluative. In other words, socialization includes the knowledge of how things are caused and the establishment of emotional links with the rest of the members of the society. Socialization, therefore, equips an individual in such a way that he can perform his duties in his society. Who are the agents of socialization? The agents of socialization vary from society to society. However, in most of the cases, it is the family which is a major socializing agent, that is, the nearest kinsmen are the first and the most important agents of socialization. The other groups which are socializing units in a society vary according to the complexity. Thus, in modern complex society, the important socializing agents are educational institutions, while in primitive societies, clans and lineages play a more important role. Socialization is a slow process.

There is no fixed time regarding the beginning and the end of this process. However, some sociologists formulated different stages of socialization. These are (1) oral stage, (2) anal stage (3) oedipal stage, and (4) adolescence. In all these stages, especially in the first three, the main socializing agent is the family. The first stage is that of a new-born child when he is not involved in the family as a whole but only with his mother. He does not recognize anyone except his mother. The time at which the second stage begins is generally after first year and ends when the infant is around three. At this stage, the child separates the role of his mother and his own. Also during this time force is used on the child, that is, he is made to learn a few basic things. The third stage extends from about fourth year to 12th to 13th year, that is, till puberty. During this time, the child becomes a member of the family as a whole and identifies himself with the social role ascribed to him. The fourth stage begins at puberty when a child wants freedom from parental control. He has to choose a job and a partner for himself. He also learns about incest taboo.


In everyday language to deviate means to stray from an accepted path. Many sociological definitions of deviance simply elaborate upon this idea. Thus deviance consists of those areas which do not follow the norms and expectations of a particular social group. Deviance may be positively sanctioned (rewarded), negatively sanctioned (punished), or simply accepted without reward or punishment. In terms of the above definition of deviance, the soldier on the battlefield who risks his life above and beyond the normal call of duty may be termed deviant, as the physicist who breaks the rules of his discipline and develops a new theory. Their deviance may be positively sanctioned; the soldier might be rewarded with a medal, the physicist with a Noble prize. In one sense, though, neither is deviant since both conform to the values of society, the soldier to the value of courage; the physicist to the value of academic progress.

By comparison, a murderer deviates not only from society's norms and expectations but also from its values, in particular the value placed on human life. His deviance generally results in widespread disapproval and punishment. A third form of deviance consists of acts which depart from the norms and expectations of a particular society but are generally tolerated and accepted. The little old lady with a house full of cats or the old gentleman with an obsession for collecting clocks would fall into this category. Usually their eccentricities are neither rewarded nor punished by others. They are simply defined as a 'bit odd' but harmless, and therefore tolerated. Deviance is relative. This means that there is no absolute way of defining a deviant act. Deviance can only be defined in relation to a particular standard, but no standards are fixed or absolute. As such deviance varies from time to time and place to place. In a particular society an act which is considered deviant today may be defined as normal in the future. An act defined as deviant in one society may be seen as perfectly normal in another. Put another way, deviance is culturally determined and cultures change over time and vary from society to society. The following examples will serve to illustrate the above points. Sometimes ago in Western society it had been considered deviant for women to smoke, use make-up and consume alcoholic drinks in public. Today this is no longer the case. In the same way, definitions of crime change over time. Homosexuality was formerly a criminal offence in Britain. Since 1969, however, homosexual acts conducted between consenting adults in private are no longer illegal. A comparison of modern Western culture with the traditional culture of the Teton Sioux Indians of the USA illustrates how deviance varies from society to society. As part of their religions rituals during the annual Sun Dance Ceremony Sioux Warriors mutilated their bodies, leather thongs were inserted through strips of flesh on the chest and attached to a central pole, and warriors had to break free by tearing their flesh and in return they were granted favors by the supernatural powers. Similar actions by members of Western society may well be viewed as masochism or madness. In the same way behaviour accepted as normal in Western society may be defined as deviant within primitive society. In the West the private ownership of property is an established norm; members of society strive to accumulate wealth and substantial property holding brings power and prestige. Such behaviour would have incurred strong disapproval amongst the Sioux and those who acted in terms of the above norms would be regarded as deviant. Generosity was a major value of Sioux culture and the distributed rather than accumulation of wealth was the route to power and prestige. Chiefs were expected to distribute gifts of horses, beadwork and weapons to their followers. The norms of Sioux culture prevented the accumulation of Wealth. The Sioux had no conception of the individual ownership of land; the produce of the hunt was automatically shared by all members of the group. Emile Durkheim developed his view on deviance in his discussion of crime in The Rules of Sociological Method. He argues that crime is an inevitable and normal aspect of social life; it is an integral part of all healthy societies. It is inevitable because not every member of society can be equally committed to the 'collective sentiments, the shared values and beliefs of society. Since individuals are exposed to different influences and circumstances, it is impossible for all to be alike. Therefore, not everybody shares the same restraints about breaking the law.

Crime is not only inevitable, it can also be functional. Durkheim argues that it only becomes dysfunctional when its rate is unusually high. He argues that all social change begins with some form of deviance. In order for change to occur, Yesterday's deviance must become today's normality. Since a certain amount of change is healthy for society, so it can progress rather than stagnate. So for change to occur, the collective sentiments must not be too strong, or too hostile. Infact, they must have only moderate energy' because if they were to strong they would crush all originality both of the criminal and of the genius. Thus the collective sentiments must not be sufficiently powerful to block the expression of people like Jesus, William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa. Durkheim regarded some crime as and anticipation of the morality of the future. Thus heretics who were denounced by both the state and the established church may represent the collective sentiments of the future. In the same way terrorists of freedom fighters may represent a future established order .If crime is inevitable, what is the function of punishment. Durkheim argues that its function is not to remove crime in society. Rather it is to maintain the collective sentiments at their necessary level of strength. In Durkheim's words, punishment 'serves to heal the wounds done to the collective sentiments'. Without punishment the collective sentiments would lose their force to control behaviour and the crime rate would reach the point where it becomes dysfunctional. Thus in Durkheim's view, a healthy society requires both crime and punishment, both are inevitable, both are functional.

Following Durkheim, Merton argues that deviance results not from pathological personalities but from the culture and structure of society itself. He begins from the standard functionalist position of value consensus, that is, all members of society share the same values. However, since members of society are placed in different positions in the social structure, for example, they differ in terms of class position; they do not have the same opportunity of realizing the shared value. This situation can generate deviance. In Merton's words: 'The social and cultural structure generates pressure for socially deviant behaviour upon people variously located in that structure.

Using USA as an example, Merton outlines his theory as follows. Members of American Society share the major values of American culture. In particular they share the goal of success for which they all strive and which is largely measured in terms of wealth and material possessions. The 'American Dream' states that all members of society have an equal opportunity of achieving success, of owning a Cadillac, a Beverley Hills mansion and a substantial bank balance. In all societies there are institutionalized means of reaching culturally defined goals. In America the accepted ways of achieving success are through educational qualifications, talent, hard work, drive, determination and ambition. In a balanced society an equal emphasis is placed upon both cultural goals and institutionalized means, and members are satisfied with both. But in America great importance is attached to success and relatively less importance is given to the accepted ways of achieving success. As such, American society is unstable, unbalanced. There is a tendency to reject the 'rules of the game' and to strive for success by all available means. The situation becomes like a game of cards in which winning becomes so important that the rules are abandoned by some of the players. When rules cease to operate a situation of normlessness or 'anomie' results. In this situation of anything norms no longer direct behavior and deviance is encouraged. However, individuals will respond to a situation of anomie in different ways. In particular, their reaction will be shaped by their position in the social structure. Merton outlines five possible ways in which members of American society can respond to success goals. The first and most common response is conformity. Members of society conform both to success goals and the normative means of reaching them. A second response is 'innovation'. This response rejects normative means of achieving success and turns to deviant means, crime in particular. Merton argues that members of the lower social strata are most likely to select this route to success.

Merton uses the term 'ritualism' to describe the third possible response. Those who select this alternative are deviant because they have largely abandoned the commonly held success goals. The pressure to adopt this alternative is greatest on members of the lower middle class. Their occupations provide less opportunity for success than those of other members of the middle class. However, compared o members of the working class, they have been strongly socialized to conform to social norms. This prevents them from turning to crime. Unable to innovate and with jobs that offer little opportunity for advancement, their only solution is to scale down or abandon their success goals. Merton terms the fourth and least common response, 'retreatism'. It applies to psychotics, artists, pariahs, drug addicts. They have strongly internalized both the cultural goals and the institutionalized means but is unable to achieve success. They resolve the conflict of their situation by abandoning both the goals and the means of reaching them. They are unable to cope with challenges and drop out of society defeated and resigned to their failure. They are deviant in two ways: they have rejected both the cultural goals and the institutionalized means. Merton does not relate retreatism to social class position. Rebellion forms the fifth and final response. It is a rejection of both the success goals and the institutionalized means and their replacement by different goals and means. Those who adopt this alternative want to create a new society. Thus urban guerillas in Western European capitalist societies adopt deviant means- terrorism- to reach deviant goals such as a communist society. Merton argues that it is typically members of a rising class rather than the most depressed strata who organize the resentful and rebellious into a revolutionary group.

To summarize, Merton claims that his analysis shows how the culture and structure of society generates deviance.
Attached: Accommodation
Message from
Google Docs makes it easy to create, store and share online documents, spreadsheets and presentations.
Google Docs logo


Popular posts from this blog



13.0 Learning Outcome

13.1 Introduction

13.2 Initiatives towards Constitutional Status to Local Governance

13.2.1 Features of 73rd Constitutional Amendment

13.2.2 Features of 74th Constitutional Amendment

13.2.3 Decentralised Planning in Context of 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Act

13.3 Initiatives after Economic Reforms

13.4 Functioning of PRIs in Various States after 73rd Amendment

13.5 Functioning of Local Governance after 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment: Observations

13.6 Conclusion

13.7 Key Concepts

13.8 References and Further Reading

13.9 Activities


After studying this Unit you should be able to:

• Identify the background of revitalisation of local governance;

• Understand the features of 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment;

• Discuss the initiatives after economic reforms; and

• Outlines the functioning of local governance in various states after the amendment.


The revitalization of Pancha…

General Studies :: Indian Polity #1

Constitutional evolution under British ruleRegulating Act 1773beginning of British parliamentary control over the East India Companysubordination of the presidencies of Bombay and Madras to BengalGovernor of Bengal made Governal-Generalcouncil of Governor-General establishedSupreme Court established in CalcuttaPitt’s India Act 1784commercial and political activities of the Company separatedestablished a board of control over the CompanyCharter Act 1813trade monopoly of the Company abolishedmissionaries allowed to preach in IndiaCharter Act 1833Governor-General of Bengal becomes Governor-General of Indiafirst Governor-General Lord William Bentickends commercial activities of the CompanyCharter Act 1853legislative and executive functions of the Governor-General’s council separatedopen competition for Indian Civil Services establishedIndian Council Act 1861establishes legislative councils at the centre, presidencies and provincesGovernor-General’s executive council to have Indians as non…



1.0 Learning outcome

1.1 Introduction

1.2 Concept of Democratic Decentralisation

1.3 Evolution of Democratic Decentralisation

1.4 Significance of Democratic Decentralisation

1.5 Democratic Decentralisation in India

1.6 Conclusion

1.7 Key concepts

1.8 References and Further Reading

1.9 Activities


After studying this unit, you should be able to:

• Understand the concept of Democratic Decentralization;

• Know the evolution and significance of Democratic Decentralization; and

• Describe the Democratic Decentralization pattern in India.


The dawn of 21st century is marked by decentralized governance both as a strategy and philosophy of brining about reforms and changes in democracies. These changes led to such virtues of transparency, responsiveness and accountability and ensures good governance. Today decentralization and democracy are the most significant themes in the development discourse. In the present contex…