“Becoming a deviant involves a social process of definition”. The purpose of this essay is to show how this sociological perspective can assist in understanding drug taking in society. In the essay I will discuss the notion of deviance and will demonstrate that people do not become deviants on the strength of their behaviour alone, but by the sanctions of a society whose norms that the offender has deemed to have violated. I will examine approaches to deviance through biological, psychological and sociological methodologies and while the examination of the theories is necessarily brief, it will interrogate some of the main theories related to deviant behaviour in society. The essay will employ Howard Becker’s labeling theory as the
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182) and therefore the person is considered to be deviant in the eyes of normal society. The notion of deviance is culturally assigned to particular behaviours in particular settings. For example, smoking marijuana in the main street of an Australian city is considered a deviant act, however, the same activity taking place as a spiritual activity in India may be perfectly acceptable. The other consideration is deviant behaviour relative to time. The use of marijuana in the USA for example was legal before the 1930s and therefore was not considered deviant behaviour. Today, it is punishable by law.
How then are we socialised ? What are the key socialising agents that provoke individuals within society to engage in behaviour which is seen by the majority as deviant ? In using drug culture as an example, the principal claim of this essay is that the socialising agents of drug users have come from a learned behavior, a behavior that had been taught from the interaction amid sub cultures, alternative beliefs and learning techniques that are not the regular teachings of a particular culture and not endorsed in the normative society. This is demonstrated through the studies conducted by Howard Becker on marijuana use. Becker held the belief that in the same way that people learn to become anything in society, some learn to become drug users by way of a specific