What are the implications of the idea that deviance is a social construction?

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The implications of regarding deviance as a social construct are that society must rethink its definition of rules and norms and think about the purposes and value of deviance. For example, some behaviors that were considered deviant in the past, such as being LBGTQ+, are no longer considered deviant. We...

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The implications of regarding deviance as a social construct are that society must rethink its definition of rules and norms and think about the purposes and value of deviance. For example, some behaviors that were considered deviant in the past, such as being LBGTQ+, are no longer considered deviant. We have become more tolerant as a society so that we recognize a broader definition of sexuality and sexual expression. What was considered deviant in the past—for example, being gay or lesbian—helped pave the way for our eventual tolerance of different expressions of human sexuality. If we see deviance as a social construct, we can examine why we regard behavior as deviant rather than seeing this behavior in absolute terms. As a result, we can sometimes rethink whether that behavior is truly deviant and expand our rules and norms to embrace that behavior.

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The major implication of this idea is that there is nothing that is truly deviant, nothing that is truly wrong.

If we accept the idea that deviance is socially constructed, then we are saying that we believe that another society that differed from us only in its social values could believe that what we call deviant is really perfectly acceptable.  This brings us into the realm of ethical relativism in which nothing is truly good or bad and such things are merely contingent upon what a given society believes.

However, this should not be seen as a major problem because the idea of deviance itself does not necessarily imply that actions are moral or immoral.  It simply says that certain behaviors go against the norms of society.  So, perhaps another important implication of this idea is that it should make us aware that various of our social norms are simply norms rather than objectively correct beliefs about what is right and what is wrong.  This could encourage us to be less judgemental about some forms of deviance.

 

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