For ages, scholars have tried hard to identify an explanation to social deviance. While the normalcy and naturalness of things goes unnoticed by many, the intricacies involved in the daily conceptualization and attachment of meaning to actions and things remain a controversial issue in the realms of sociological scholarship. For clarity in conceptualization of social order, deviance plays an axiomatic role. Through it, the boundaries of a society’s shared reality can be highlighted. Consequently, this paper will highlight drug peddling as a form of social deviance and apply the strain theory to elucidate the formation of this behavior (Cohen, 1966).
The purpose of this report is to understand whether participation in deviance behavior is an individual’s shortcoming or the construct of a society in their definition of normalcy. In the report, the behavior of drug peddling in a youth will be analyzed. The reason that could have led him to such behavior will be explained through the available theory of strain. Finally the report will seek to identify whether involvement in drugs is an individual’s weakness or the manifestation of shortcomings within the societal construct of normalcy.
In this case, Brian, an eighteen year old boy is considered a social misfit as a result of his involvement in drugs both as a peddler and addict. Living in Harlem ghetto since his childhood, Brian has had to undergo several challenges to ensure that he has what other people from rich neighborhoods have. Particularly, he had wanted to own a house of his own and drive a sedan. Furthermore, the life he had led as a child from a drunken father who never even knew whether the family had eaten or not or whether his children had gone to school or not had made Brian vow that his children would never undergo what he had gone through. However, he had not had the chance to get quality education to assure him a good job. With his desire to live a decent life burning in him, he opted to selling heroin as a form of income.
In many societies, use of drugs and also selling of the same is not acceptable behavior. As a definition of normalcy and socially acceptable way of life, a person who uses drugs acts beyond the boundaries set for any person who wants to be part of the society. As a result, Brian is viewed as a wayward person who has crossed this normalcy boundary. Having contravened the society’s accepted behavior, people tend to classify him as a social deviant. They isolate him because of their differences in opinion. Most of his friends are those people who engage in drug selling or drug abuse. However, non drug users do not find him a comfortable company. Association with him is characterized in itself as a deviant behavior. It is like justifying his act of dealing with drugs. On the other hand, the administration has branded him a wanted person. They have a strained relationship between them.
On his part, Brian does not view his involvement in drugs as a bad act. In fact, he adores this act because he finds it the only thing that helped him attain the status that he currently enjoys. In his quest to ensure that he never lived a life characterized by abject poverty, it was this act of selling drugs that allowed him to attain his goals. True to his word, he owns a good house within the neighborhoods. In addition, he has a beautiful red sedan that he cruises through the estates at the admiration of his age mates. At his tender age, he has a child who schools in an affluent school that most of his neighbors cannot afford by all means. Seemingly, Brian does not find any offence in what he does. In his own world, he believes that the life he is living is what human beings are supposed to live. By selling drugs, he was able to attain the true lifestyle.
In their attempt to explain deviance in the society, Scholars have come up with several explanations. One of the vocal schools in sociology is structuralisms. In this school of thought, deviance is a direct manifestation of an individual’s quest to live within the expected ways of life that hence maintain the social structure. Their arguments are founded on the fact that the society as a whole has generally accepted principles that every individual must conform to in order to be taken as a successful person.
In his definition of origin of deviance, Robert Merton argues that the structural nature of the society and the generally accepted measures of success are the root cause of all evils. Precisely, the dictated goals of success which are generally accepted within the society tend to be obscure within certain social classes. In most cases, the route towards the attainment of these goals for success are defined and generally accepted. Unfortunately, the institutional capacity of the society tends to favor the upper and middle class members of the society while putting the low class at a disadvantage. For instance, being rich is a definition of success. The accepted ways to be rich are through education and hence good jobs or legal businesses. However, the members of the low class within the society are unable to get quality education and hence end up without good jobs. In their endeavor to rich the generally accepted goals of success, they opt to use short cuts and other illegal means provided they attain the success goals (Cohen, 1966).
In the case of Brian, he purposes to live a rich life. However, his parents are not in position to provide him with the right channels that will allow him to attain the set goals of success in legal channel. His poor education cannot allow him to get a good job and live the expected comfortable life. Consequently, Brian resorts to using means that would allow him live this life, and this is selling drugs. While this activity is criminalized, it is the only way that Brian can use to attain the success goals set by the society (Lemert, 1951).
Brian’s case clearly shows that the Strain theory of deviance is functional. It is evident that the society’s belief that a successful person must be able to cater for his family, live in a good house, drive an expensive vehicle et cetera fails to put in consideration the means of getting to these goals. The specified legal means are set in the context of middle and upper class with the low class forgotten completely. However, the low class tends to accept the generally set goals of success. But given that the institutions do not favor them, they employ other means like Brian resorts to selling drugs. If he decided to get rich through a legal career path, his education would not have allowed him. However, by selling drugs, he is able to reach the set goals of success. Therefore, the Strain theory is functional.
Cohen, A. (1966) Deviance and Control. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall
Lemert, E. (1951) Social Pathology. New York: McGraw-Hill.