Explaining Social Deviance

Course No. 675
Professor Paul Root Wolpe, Ph.D.
Emory University
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Course No. 675
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Course Overview

Why do some people commit crimes, use the wrong fork, or speak out of turn? How does a society determine when a crime has been committed, which fork to use, and who should speak when? How have we tried to explain deviance and create categories of deviants? What has been the role of race and class in these definitions?

How do deviants reconcile their behavior with society's norms? What have been the contributions of Freud, Durkheim, Lombroso, and modern literary criticism to our understanding of deviance and conformity?

How is the practice of science itself an example of deviance and conformity?

A Framework for Defining Deviance

This set of 10 lectures examines the complex topic of deviance and how major sociological theories have attempted to define it and understand its role in both historical and modern society.

Professor Paul Root Wolpe introduces deviance as "a complex, often ambiguous, social phenomenon that raises numerous questions about how a varied and often arbitrary set of characteristics can be used to name the same idea.

"Certain theories provide a framework for examining how religion, societal norms, power relations, and personal values and beliefs are often used to determine which personal characteristics and behaviors are labeled deviant and, by default, which individuals, groups, or behaviors are sanctioned in societies," he says.

The application of those definitions has a direct impact on areas of social life, including the mental health profession, systems of deterrence, the judicial system, and the arts. Who do we medicate, educate, incarcerate?

Dr. Wolpe is the author of the textbook Sexuality and Gender in Society and the end-of-life guide In the Winter of Life. He has won several teaching and writing awards and was named "Outstanding Professor at Penn" by the Panhellenic Council at the University of Pennsylvania.

In addition, Dr. Wolpe is the first chief of bioethics for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He is a regular columnist on biotechnology for the Philadelphia Inquirer and appears frequently in broadcast and print media, including MSNBC, CBS and ABC Evening News, Dateline, and The Jim Lehrer Show.

Explore Western Theories of Deviance

Intended for those with some understanding of sociology, this course traces Western theories of deviance from classical demonism to constructionism.

Deviance and criminology. The first lecture introduces the topic of deviance and explores its relationship to criminology, then goes on to outline the three major perspectives of deviance: absolutist, objectivist, and subjectivist.

The absolutist perspective is based on the acceptance of universal norms of morality. The objectivist perspective explains deviance as a variation from established societal norms. The subjectivist perspective views deviance as the result of societal reactions to certain individuals, groups, and behaviors.

The concept of demonism. Lecture 2 explores the concept of demonism in both its classical and modern forms. As an example of an absolutist perspective, demonism bifurcates the world into good and evil, with evil often being characterized as supernatural in nature.

Tracing the history of demonism from the Middle Ages to contemporary examples of Satanism, Professor Wolpe illustrates how demonism has often been used to explain and categorize bad behavior when no other explanation is available.

Deviance and pathology. Deviance as a form of pathology is the focus of Lecture 3. Beginning with the early work of Cesare Lombroso and ending with contemporary arguments supporting racial hierarchy theory, Professor Wolpe analyzes the influence of science on sociological thought.

You examine background information on the IQ controversy, the eugenics movement, and Social Darwinism as well as their effects on other aspects of American social life.

Social disorganization. In Lecture 4 Professor Wolpe examines the first sociological theory of deviance, social disorganization. This theory, which gained prominence at the University of Chicago in the 1920s, contends that deviance is a result of the breakdown of a society's ability to regulate itself and to solve communal problems.

It is the first theory to move away from individualistic views of deviance and consider the role of social structure in deviant behaviors. Social disorganization firmly established fieldwork and empirical research as mainstays of sociology.

Durkheim and Merton. An overview of the work of Emile Durkheim and Robert Merton constitutes the bulk of Lecture 5. While not in agreement as to the role of deviance in society, both sociologists agree that it serves a function, as do all social structures and institutions.

You explore anomie, or the breakdown of social morality, as either causing or preventing deviance.

Learning theory. Lecture 6 is devoted to learning theory, the theory of deviance that examines the influence of subcultures on individual behavior. In this lecture, Wolpe describes how differential association, identification, and reinforcement socialize people into particular norms and behaviors, including the behavior system of deviance.

Professor Wolpe outlines ways that deviants negotiate living in two cultures, normative and deviant, using Sykes's and Matza's techniques of neutralization.

Control theory. Lecture 7 on control theory moves away from the question, "Why do people deviate?" to the question "Why do people conform?" You find included in this analysis the idea that most people are in constant discord with society, but through a process of social bonding they commit to the normative behaviors and rules of conduct.

Based heavily on the idea that people are all inherently motivated to deviate, the concept of deterrence plays a key role in control theory.

How society reacts to deviance. In Lectures 8 and 9, Wolpe concentrates on societal reactions to deviance, outlining how deviance has been both constructed and labeled in society.

In Lecture 8 Wolpe describes mental illness and homosexuality as forms of involuntary, noncriminal deviance, to illustrate the dynamics of labeling theory.

Lecture 9 provides background information on the influence of Karl Marx on conflict theory, a theory that continues to view labeling as an integral part of what is viewed as deviant, but which includes the added dimension of a dominant ideology.

You explore the key components of constructionism, claims making, and image making using contemporary examples from art, advertising, and political ideology.

Inherent to the constructionist perspective of deviance is the problematic nature of social truth, which Wolpe illuminates in his discussion of social problems as a form of claims-making activity.

Theories of sexual deviance. The final lecture applies the theoretical perspectives discussed in this course to sexual deviance.

From the demonistic perspective of sex as sin to the constructionist view of sex as claims making, Wolpe illustrates how each theory explains sexual deviance and how those explanations continue to influence contemporary thought.

Professor Wolpe concludes with reasons why science, as a social institution, must be constantly deconstructed and analyzed as a social process that is susceptible to its own form of claims making.

Professor Wolpe concludes the series by discussing the role of science in society and the responsibility of each individual as "moral entrepreneur."

"The most important job people have as members of society is to challenge definitions of deviance," he states.

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10 lectures
 |  Average 46 minutes each
  • 1
    The First Step—Asking the Right Questions
    In this opening lecture, the topic of deviance is introduced as a complex social phenomenon that raises numerous questions about how a varied and often arbitrary set of characteristics can be used to name the same idea. x
  • 2
    Demonism—The Devil's Children and Evil Empires
    Classical demonism illustrates the absolutist perspective of deviance by dividing the world into good and evil. Classical demonism has re-emerged as an explanation for deviance in modern society. Modern demonism continues to divide the world into opposing forces—those who know what is right and those who do not. x
  • 3
    Deviance as Pathology—I'm OK, You Are Twisted
    The pathological perspective of deviance is based on the assumption of a difference between those who are deviant and those who are not. Scientific thinking attempts to explain this difference through racial hierarchy, heredity, intelligence, and genetics; despite its contention that deviance must be viewed empirically, it is still highly moralistic and discriminatory. x
  • 4
    Social Disorganization—Deviance in the Urban Landscape
    The first sociological theory of deviance emerged from the University of Chicago in the 1920s. Despite its inherent bias and circular logic, the social disorganization theory established fieldwork and empirical research as mainstays of sociology. It was also the first theory to suggest that individuals are influenced by the structure of the social world in which they live. x
  • 5
    Functionalism and Anomie—Why Can't We All Just Get Along?
    Functionalism suggests that deviance is necessary for a society to create moral boundaries and a collective conscience that goes beyond any individual. Two different but influential views of deviance and anomie are explored: Emile Durkheim's view which states that deviance prevents anomie, and Robert Merton's view that anomie is a result of deviance. x
  • 6
    Learning Theory—You Have to be Carefully Taught
    The premise of learning theory is that deviance is not an isolated process; people are socialized into particular behavior patterns and norms of the subculture to which they are exposed. Learning theory attempts to explain the roles that differential association and identification play in the socialization process and how adopted behaviors are reinforced and rewarded. x
  • 7
    Control Theory—Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child
    The principle of control theory is that people are inherently motivated to deviance, and it is only because of social bonds and the fear of punishment that they do not act on these instincts. The role control theory has played in both historical and contemporary thinking on deterrence is also explored. x
  • 8
    Labeling Theory—Is Deviance in the Eye of the Beholder?
    Labeling theory suggests that there is no fundamental difference between someone who is deviant and someone who is not; people simply act, and it is society that determines whether or not behavior is deviant. This theory provides insight into how nonvoluntary, noncriminal behaviors such as mental illness become viewed as a form of deviance. x
  • 9
    Conflict and Constructionism—Every Step You Take, I'll Be Watching You
    Competing interests that are part of all human interactions are the focus of constructionism and conflict theories. The explanation of deviance as pathological or as a result of certain social interactions gives way to a view of deviance that is more explicitly ideological in nature. To understand deviance, it is not the "deviant" who needs to be analyzed; it is the creation of deviance that must be deconstructed. x
  • 10
    Case Studies—Sex and Science
    Because every society devotes much time and energy to determining what is sexually proper and what is taboo, this lecture discusses sexual deviance as an example of how the theories discussed in this course continue to resonate in modern thought. It is the role of science in society and the responsibility of each individual as "moral entrepreneur" to constantly negotiate the meaning of deviance. x

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Your professor

Paul Root Wolpe

About Your Professor

Paul Root Wolpe, Ph.D.
Emory University
Dr. Paul Root Wolpe is the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Bioethics, the Raymond F. Schinazi Distinguished Research Chair in Jewish Bioethics, a Professor in the Departments of Medicine, Pediatrics, and Sociology, and the Director of the Center for Ethics at Emory University. Dr. Wolpe also serves as the first bioethicist for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, where he is responsible for formulating policy on...
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Explaining Social Deviance is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 41.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from They were interesting lectures. I was a little disappointing because I expected them to be more oriented towards explaining the cause of those traits which we commonly think of as deviant. instead they took more the approach that many things considered to be deviant are really only defined to be so by the standards of the culture in which they occur. But there are traits that I think all would agree are deviant such as those in which the person finds pleasure in causing another's pain. i was hoping to hear some explaination of those.
Date published: 2017-03-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Perhaps Dated but Informative Available as audio only, no course materials. The speaker is engaging and throws out a lot of information but I felt it dealt with too much of the history of deviance. Still worth listening to.
Date published: 2017-01-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great for Driving to For my job, I had to move an hour away from my girlfriend. Whenever I drive to her house to visit, I play these lectures on my iPod, since the same playlists get boring at times. It's very easy to follow along while driving. My biggest concern was getting lost in the theories because I couldn't take notes or follow along in the study guide. Thankfully, the lectures were laid out simply enough to where it wasn't distracting to listen and pay attention. I'll be honest, this isn't the most memorable course for me, but that could easily be because I has listening to the audio version and not watching the video. But, it's still really good content, and I would highly recommend for someone looking to learn more about sociology.
Date published: 2016-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Liberal Social Theory Presentation An excellent presentation of the liberal perspective. It does not matter if Professor Wolpe is wrong on matters, that is not the point. He did a good job in sincerely presenting his point of view. In the division of Absolute thought, Objective thought, and Relative thought, Professor Wolpe has the issue of Absolute thought wrong. This is not his fault but rather how liberal sociologists think about the issues. They cannot understand conservative thought, so they demonize conservatives. Since about 1990, most of these issues have been redefined in two areas. The first area is law schools, where professionals are very clear about how to evaluate social issues. Their approach is most often objectivist as to legal theory, but once the law is set, absolute as to how to apply the law. This is universally agreed upon in public discourse and policy with a few exceptions. The other area is finance and economics, which is now highly determinative of where people live, where they attend school, and their employment prospects. This has been driven by law and economic theory. An example is in application of recreational drug use, the law that surrounds drug use and the response of society: Drug use creates social barriers, which are exacerbated in legalization in the "Nash/Schelling" equilibrium, and we are seeing this in Colorado in the micro motive and macro social behavior. Absolutist/Moralist: Choose between jobs or drug use, and the conservatives choose to work. Objectivist/Amoralist: Follow the market amorally and the moderate manager drug tests. Relativistic/Immoralist: Say drug use is okay, and the liberal hourly employee works for someone else. After a few Nash/Schelling rounds: Absolutist/Moralist: Most high power professional groups constantly discuss drug use as abuse and unprofessional, from medicine, to law, to teaching to accounting, nearly all professions have strict codes. Objectivist/Amoralist: Managers claim what happens in Colorado stays in Colorado, they do not mean this. What they mean is that they hire people when they need them, and they use cost benefit analysis, and those who use drugs are useful, but will never get promoted. Relativistic/Immoralist: You either own your own business and set your own rules, like a sole proprietor liberal, or you work a low paying job in a franchise, like fast food, or light construction, or in a coffee shop, where they don't ask and they don't tell about drugs use as the rule. This model exactly explains the sociological structures and outcomes that we are seeing in the ages 16-28 cohort, and this issue is constantly making the national news. The claim of sociology is that they could define, observe, and to some degree predict social behavior. In this case, and in many cases, they seem to justify liberal behavior that is felt to be disruptive in general society, with constant "demonism" and exaggerations of moderate and conservative responses. The reason the course is valuable, is that you get to listen to and trace the intellectual source of these dysfunctions, like listening to Marxists speeches on the "dialectic" after the period Maoism ends, realizing, that stable people do not act radically evil over time, but seem to come to some similar conclusions over time, leading North Korea and Iran and Cuba to be politically outliers. Sociologically, most people in those societies are not deviant or that different, but they have to adapt to political deviancy, which is exactly what Reagan meant when he called the Soviet Union the Evil Empire as a rhetorical call phrase, but the lack of liberal understanding led this very accurate statement to be seen as an over simplification. In this light, the course is very valuable to see another viewpoint.
Date published: 2016-05-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Needs Updating This course was recorded in 1994 and needs to be updated. There have been advancements since the creation of this course that makes it dated. Also the professor references events that were current at the time but are out of date now. The course gives an overview of different sociological approaches to deviance in a chronological order. Dr. Wolpe does a very good job describing these approaches and explains the strengths and weaknesses of each method. Where I struggled with this presentation was the focus keep changing. This course could used some clearer definitions of what deviance is. This is particularly true with the more modern theories. I had a research professor who once said - Clearly define your objective and always direct your research to this objective. I felt that was missing in this series of lectures. This course also crosses over into other disciplines and specifically the study of what is called natural science. Some of the facts, such as the definition of gravity, the impact of Einstein on Newton, are simply not correct. In making a criticism of what is called the scientific process, there is no mention of the scientific method. Without explaining the scientific method, the criticism is incomplete. Science is conducted by people and is subject to influences Dr. Wolpe mentions, but there are methods that are in place to counteract them. In the end I found this course informative, but not very satisfying. As I started out this review, it is time for a course update.
Date published: 2015-08-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from How Society Defines Deviance This course is about how society defines deviance and how that definition has changed. This course is NOT about the causes of deviance or any scientific, biological, or environmental causes of deviance. That being said, the course is still very interesting and educational. I definitely developed a better appreciation for so-called deviant behavior. However, as other reviewers have mentioned, the lecture went off the rails when Wolpe started talking about science and, especially, evolution. Whether he believes in evolution or not, he should at least present the theory correctly rather than the nonsense he conveys. It was a very bad ending to an otherwise interesting course. I downgraded the overall rating an entire star for this. Despite the bad ending, I do recommend this course to those who desire a better understanding of the relationship between society and the definition of deviance.
Date published: 2015-02-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from How Society Defines Deviance This course is about how society defines deviance and how that definition has changed. This course is NOT about the causes of deviance or any scientific, biological, or environmental causes of deviance. That being said, the course is still very interesting and educational. I definitely developed a better appreciation for so-called deviant behavior. However, as other reviewers have mentioned, the lecture went off the rails when Wolpe started talking about science and, especially, evolution. Whether he believes in evolution or not, he should at least present the theory correctly rather than the nonsense he conveys. It was a very bad ending to an otherwise interesting course. I downgraded the overall rating an entire star for this. Despite the bad ending, I do recommend this course to those who desire a better understanding of the relationship between society and the definition of deviance.
Date published: 2015-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Suprizingly Good! This class was not what I expected in the sense that I was so drawn in by it. Who knew that something titled "Explaining Social Deviance" would be so fascinating. This class helps one understand social norms and what makes people fall outside the norms. One interesting concept to me was that not all social deviance is negative (example, Jesus would be considered a social deviant according to this class). I went through this class rather quickly as I couldn't wait to get home and listen to my audio version after work. Even though this class is a bit older, I really enjoyed it and would recommend it. The lecturer really kept my attention.
Date published: 2015-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A 2-for-1 offer. Audio download. Dr Wolpe's EXPLAINING SOCIAL DEVIANCE is really two things in one: • It examines "deviance", a very broad concept that includes everything from criminality to smaller habits that grate on others. Elvis Presley's dance moves and hair style, for example, started out as deviant until they became the very definition of cool for his generation. • It is an introduction to sociological thinking. Wolpe examines behaviors that also have medical, psychological or economic facets which he mostly ignores. His interest is society, an entity that is both outside us — pressuring through a wide range of threats from mild ridicule to prison — and yet also "inside" through the values and language we internalized during childhood. As this course only has 10 lessons, you should think of it as provocative pamphlet; a product designed to jolt you out of old ways of thinking. It is a first step; not a comprehensive overview of every facet of deviance. __________________ More specifically, Wolpe states that deviance is usually discussed from 3 perspectives: absolutist, objectivist and subjectivist. The first is pre-sociological and very old. ABSOLUTISM: Rules, "our" rules especially, are valid for all time, all societies and in all circumstances. Indeed, ancient or primitive societies considered them divine. It follows that rule-breakers are EVIL, cursed by God. They fill absolutists with instinctive fury. Murderers are obvious candidates. But gay men in certain circumstances also arouse much disgust. So do women driving a car in Saudi Arabia. Note that Wolpe does not mean that absolutists are foolish or that murder and gay rights are good. His only point is that absolutism is a poor explanation for social rules. Something else is at work here. OBJECTIVISM: Societies evolve rules to avoid chaos. It can be important things like property rights or less earth-shaking rules such as which washrooms are reserved for women. The goal is social order, justice, the promotion of prosperity, whatever. It follows that all rules are man-made, negotiable in time, and continually "tested" by unhappy social elements. That is how rules are reformed and youth is socialized. Otherwise, scofflaws are segregated from the group for the purpose of reform. But are societies always this rational? SUBJECTIVISM: Even assuming that objectivism has some truth to it, there is a "gamesmanship" element to rule application as various groups vie for power, prestige or resources. A large number of youths, for example, shoplift a few times. Most outgrow it or stop after one arrest. If you are poor or part of a despised minority, however, you might do a little jail time. You are "labeled", part of the system, an unlikely hire, a prime suspect should the police seek information about other crimes. The police, like any organization, are judged by their success rate. Businesses sell. The police resolve cases. Add to that a court system that encourages plea-bargaining to lighten its load, and abuse is possible. Labeling can become a self-fulfilling liability. ____________________ These are simple examples to illustrate Wolpe's main points. Sociology is long on theory and famous for the way is can express common-sense observations in impenetrable jargon. At the same time it is the theoretical foundation behind the activities of our educators, social workers and penal reformers. __________________ Presentation was fine. So was the course guide. Some contributors got all worked up because Wolpe extends social "gamesmanship" to the hard sciences in lesson 10. I would respectfully invite them to check out TTC's SCIENCE WARS where the same point is made by a respected historian of science. Neither course denies that there is a non-social reality "out there" that ultimately corrects mistakes, but in the short run, scientific work is subject to the politics of group dynamics, what sociology is all about. Understanding sociology can have a huge impact on your perception of everyday experience. This course is an OK introduction. Other strong suggestions, should you feel so inclined, are 2 short books: Peter Berger's "Invitation to Sociology" and Randall Collins' "Sociological Insight". Recommended.
Date published: 2014-03-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent, provocative lecture What is deviance? Who is a deviant? Why are people deviant? These are some of the questions I had in mind when I listened to this course. Professor Wolpe delivers, and them some. Wolpe explains various theories of deviance with clarity - and some style. Wolpe does not offer the certainty of thought. Far from it. Instead, he invites the listener to question taken-for-granted categories of deviance. At the end of the course, I was slightly confused, but exhiliarated.
Date published: 2013-02-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from First Flop I have ordered many courses for Teaching Company and this is the first flop. I struggled to get to 2 stars on this. The price was good and the title sounded interesting. The professor's bias was way too evident although feeble efforts were made to claim an objective presentation. It's not bad enough to reject everything about conventional morality and push 1970's psychosocial flaptwaddle. Critique of various aspects of dominant religions - OK. This professor has to dismiss the scientific method as the best way to discover the reality of our physical world too. That's the last straw for me. This professor would have had a promising future in Stalinist Russia along with Lysenko. It is discouaraging to think that young minds are exposed to this before they are in a position to question the professor.
Date published: 2013-01-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Makes me wonder... First 9 lectures - OK sociology material. Lecture 10 makes me wonder if before releasing this course editors listened to it to the end. Failure of the professor to qualitatively differentiate between concepts of evolution and creationism is not an average error, which can be overlooked.
Date published: 2013-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Definitely a Hidden Gem Another reviewer called this one of the hidden gems of The Great Courses, and I agree. I come from a different perspective than Wolpe, fundamentally disagreeing with him on a number of things, and I found the course fascinating. Very engaging and informative. I'd love to be able to listen to an update lecture.
Date published: 2012-11-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A good course with a very bad conclusion exemple This course is a very good one from lecture 1 to the middle of lecture 10. At the last section of lecture 10, the professor get out of field of competence to talk about science, using science as an example. Sorry, but a big part of the arguments are too quickly and very poorly given to us. This result with leaving us with a bad taste for science and very ineffective and unequal conclusion for a very good course. This course need an update.
Date published: 2012-07-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Astonishingly Impacting At first I was dubious about an audio format, but the topic drew me to purchase this course anyways. For many reasons, I was deeply impacted by this course, and it certainly exceeded my expectations. I found myself taking copious notes, not only because the professor has an engaging cadence to his presentation, but also because deviance as a subset of sociology is both fascinating and relevant more than ever in a society with oftentimes confused or misguided youth who both constitute deviant populations and/or perpetuate the pejorative attitudes that most academicians would find antiquated in a society that has been revolutionized in recent decades. Although the "OJ Simpson trial" mentioned as a current event certainly dates the lecture series; nevertheless, the information is timeless, and I found myself immersed in a world where social deviance abounds around me. Never having put labels to phenomenon and societal dynamics that occur right before my eyes, this course helped me to place myself in a chain of events and better analyze our society for better and for worse. And needless to say, 45 minutes whizzed by, just like that... I found this course accidentally, browsing the A-Z listing. I certainly believe it is one of the Great Courses hidden secrets and deserves a lot more attention than it may get.
Date published: 2012-06-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The "What" of Deviance - Not The "How" I bought this course hoping to better understand how "bad behavior", e.g. wars, crimes, drug addictions etc, arise in society- and also how those behaviors have been successfully corrected in the past. I learned very little about the "how". This course is primarily a course in the history of the idea of deviance i.e. its more about "what deviance is" than about "how deviance arises". I was surprised, and intrigued, by the realization that the very definition of deviance is at least as important as the process by which deviant behavior arises. For someone like me, without any background in sociology, the course also gives a much needed taste of the strengths and weaknesses of various sociological approaches. The lecturer, who sounds distinctly like Woody Allen, is enthusiastic, provocative and engaging. The course was not what I expected but worth every penny.
Date published: 2011-10-25
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Time for a new Course While much of the historical discussion was interesting, a great deal of the information given in this course is extremely dated. The final section on science and deviation shows a clear lack of understanding of evolutionary theory on the part of the professor. It's not only misleading it's downright detrimental to listeners. It's time to update this course!
Date published: 2011-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The ambiguity of social deviance “Explaining Social Deviance” is an older short course that has lost nothing of its freshness and is simply fun to listen to, even on second or third hearing. One of the reasons is Professor Wolpe’s engaging “live” presentation style, another is the way he presents and then challenges the concepts of deviance that have been developed over the years (the course description on the TC website gives an excellent overview of what to expect). One will not get a definitive answer to what deviance “is” but instead will be challenged to examine and sharpen one’s own conceptions of the term before labeling something as “deviant”. As other reviewers have pointed out the second half of the last lecture appears, at least at first glance, somewhat strange and its inclusion is perhaps marred by the short time allotted to it. On the other hand, the practice of science is a social enterprise and its practitioners are potentially subject to being labeled “deviant” by their cohorts making the inclusion of such a case study fit neatly into the subject matter of the course even though its conclusions may be ambiguous and its presentation not clear enough. What it failed to point out was that while the question “what makes science science?” may not have a straightforward answer, one of the sine qua nons of any understanding of science has to be its openness to revision of what we think “nature is like”. This is why creationism obviously fails to qualify as science and cannot even be labeled “deviant” science.
Date published: 2011-07-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent For Any True Learner The lecturer is very concise in this lecture. He uses excellent comparisons and storys to present his ideas. This lecture was recorded in 1994 but any topic addressed in Socilolgy is timeless. This is captivating experience to listen once, and twice captivating the second time. There is one contiuous thread throughout the lecture and it is not disjointed in any way.
Date published: 2010-09-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Rewards Repeat Listening My favorite Teaching Company courses are enjoyable to revisit after a time. Something I miss about older courses is that years ago there were more short courses that discussed a smaller theme in depth. This is such a course. Older courses tended to be more delivered more spontaneously. While this may have made courses and individual lectures feel less consistent they can be great fun to listen to. They provoke thinking and reward repeat listening. The course is a review of how deviance has been defined over time and in different societies. One encounters a surprising number of challenges trying to really nail down unwritten norms and define deviance. This is the theme of the course. If you haven't listened to a course yet in the older style and 45 minutes format, consider this one for its wonderful delivery, and fascinating topic.
Date published: 2010-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very well done Not only did this course do an excellent job in remaining on topic, it also served as a well-rounded introduction to sociology in general. Based on my experience with this course I would be very interested in more courses that represent the sociological imagination.
Date published: 2010-02-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from strange last half lecture The course seems pretty decent and mostly making sence but then the last half lecture of the course arrived and Prof Wolpe turned to the topic of Case Studies regarding Science. Dr Wolpe started quoating scientists or semi-scientist and starting making some bizarre comments. For example Quantum mechanics according to Paul Foreman was developed because of a defeat in world war one by the Germans so they decided it was a good idea to deny causality and dream up the quantum ideas because they were based on random events. This is totally untrue and obviously Dr. Wolpe doesnt understand how quantum mechanics came about and should not be quoating odd balls like Paul Foreman without understanding the topic. Denying causality had nothing to do with the development of quantum mechanices. Dr Wolpe also suggested Aristotle used a hierarichal system to expalin things cause this was the way the society was structured at the time in Ancient Greece. Aristotle was not a scientis,t he was a philosopher so this example doesnt even relate to science. It started to get even worse, Dr Wolpe then started to critisize real scientists who understand Evolution and suggested that "Creationist" beleivers should not be treated as devients by real scientists; and the only reason they treated them as deviants was to maintain their own grip on power in the scientific community. Dr. Wople even cited examples that evolution is proven to be wrong all the time. This statement was astonishing and totally untrue. If there were such evidence it would make world wide headlines, rather than as a footnote in a course on social deviance. Dr Wolpe also suggested Para psychologists who believe in ESP are not deviants and should be treated fairly by the scientific community rather than being labelled and laughed at. The reason Creationists and ESP people are not taken seriously by anyone is because there is no evidence at all to support their claims, in fact there is a massive amount of evidence that supports their claims to be totally false and has nothing to do with the fact how people label or dont label them . Apart from this completely bizzare final part of the course it was rather entertaining.
Date published: 2009-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging style and enlightening I heard about Professor Wolpe from a person at Penn who was involved in the Center for Bioethics there. I ordered this older course out of curiosity about Wolpe and was astonished at his outstanding presentation of this difficult and controversial topic. I know he has since moved onto to Emery but I would like to encourage The Teaching Company to seek him out again for a new course on whatever topic he has since developed. I would also like to know further developments in Deviance Theory since Constructionism.
Date published: 2009-04-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Consistent incapulated "Gems."
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from course is a little dated - over 10 years old, at times professor used jargon without explaining it.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Its back an extremely positive experience taking each course- I highly recommend becoming a teaching co advocate!
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Seemed unusually orderly & Methodical till the last lecture. Ranting that scientific method is all wrong. Science is evil.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Before finding the Great Courses, I always dreaded my commute. Two ways, every day, of just standing in a crowded subway car. Now with the Great Courses and a pair of headphones, I've come to enjoy my commute more than work.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Saavy, insightful, objective, engaging. More from Prof. Wolpe please!
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course was an excellent survery of deviance. I found the material on mental illness to be very insightful.
Date published: 2008-10-17
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