The main difference between crime and deviance is that crime is the violation of the law, whereas deviance is the violation of social norms and rules.
These two concepts are often used together, as both have similar meanings. There is often an overlap between crime and deviance since deviant behaviours can also be regarded as criminal behaviours. Moreover, a crime also violates social norms and rules in addition to the violation of the law. This is why it is very difficult to determine the difference between crime and deviance.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Crime
– Definition, Types, Examples
2. What is Deviance
– Definition, Types, Examples
3. What is the Relationship Between Crime and Deviance
– Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Crime and Deviance
– Comparison of Key Differences
Crime, Deviance, Law
What is Crime
A crime is “an action or omission which constitutes an offence and is punishable by law”. In other words, it is an illegal or unlawful action that is punishable by law. Moreover, there are many types of forms of crimes. In criminal law, crimes have two main basic categories felonies and misdemeanours. Felony includes serious crimes like murder, rape, and, robbery, which typically result in serious punishments. Misdemeanours, on the other hand, refer to comparatively minor crimes with lesser punishments. Some examples include shoplifting, vandalism, indecent exposure in public and trespassing.
Furthermore, criminology is the scientific study of crimes and criminals. According to some criminologists, crimes can be categorized into five categories as violent crimes, property crimes, white-collar crime, organized crimes and consensual or victimless crimes.
Violent Crimes – Crimes where intended harm is inflicted against another individual during the commission of the crime. For example, murder, rape, sexual assault, and robbery.
Property Crimes – Crimes that include the theft or destruction of someone else’s property. For instance, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, larceny, arson, shoplifting, and vandalism.
White-collar Crimes – Nonviolent crimes committed for financial gain. Some examples include wage theft, bribery, Ponzi schemes, insider trading, and fraud.
Organized Crimes – Crimes committed by groups of professional criminals (transnational, national, or local) who work together as part of a powerful and secret organization.
Consensual or Victimless Crimes – These refer to illegal actions or crimes that have no direct victim. There is no victim because the parties involved are acting voluntarily. For example, prostitution, drug use, suicide, public drunkenness, etc.
What is Deviance
Deviance is a violation of social conventions and rules. This is a behaviour that is not in conformity with the socially accepted code of conduct. Social norms and conventions differ through various societies, cultures and countries. Therefore, a behaviour that is viewed as deviant in one society may be perfectly acceptable in another society.
It’s also important to note that there is an overlap between crime and deviance. Furthermore, it is possible to categorize the violation of social norms under two categories: formal deviance and informal deviance. Formal deviance includes crimes, which violate laws in a society; ex, sexual assault, theft, rape, robbery, etc. In contrast, informal deviance minor violations that break unwritten rules of society; for instance, belching loudly, picking nose in public, etc. Moreover, formal deviance can result in punishment by law, whereas informal deviance can result in stigma and social sanctions.
Relationship Between Crime and Deviance
- There is an overlap between crime and deviance since crimes also include the violation of social norms and rules, in addition to law.
- Moreover, formal deviance includes actions that are considered as crimes.
Difference Between Crime and Deviance
Crime refers to the violation of law, whereas deviance refers to the violation of social rules, norms, and conventions.
Felonies and misdemeanours are the two major categories of crimes under criminal law, while formal and informal deviance are the two types of deviance.
Crimes are always punishable by law. However, formal deviances are punishable by law, whereas informal deviances result in social sanctions and stigma.
Murder, rape, sexual assault, robbery, and fraud are examples of crimes and formal deviance whereas belching loudly, picking nose in public, standing too close to someone, etc. are some examples of informal deviance.
The main difference between crime and deviance is that crime is the violation of the law, whereas deviance is the violation of social norms and rules. There is often an overlap between crime and deviance since deviant behaviours often result in criminal behaviours.
1.“Crime.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 Dec. 2019, Available here.
2. “Deviance (Sociology).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Dec. 2019, Available here.
3. “Types of Crime.” Social Problems: Continuity and Change, Available here.
1. “Demo arrest, handcuffed” By Oregon Department of Transportation – Busted!Uploaded by Smallman12q (CC BY 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “A Structural-Functionalist Understanding of Deviance” By Rcragun – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia