Deviance is defined as the act of doing something that does comply with the norms and the rules of the society, this behavior goes against the general ways of behaving and is often subject to some kind of punishment or penalty that the one engaging in deviant behavior has to pay. Often institutions set up strict codes that must be followed and maintained, any kind of behavior that will not obey this code will be considered as deviant behavior. E.g. in a society where one is expected to earn money by working hard, the act of stealing becomes a deviant behavior, this behavior is punished by the law. In every kind of society, even in primitive societies, there is always a body of heads which will determine what deviant behavior is and what consequence will the indulgence in such behavior entail.
Emile Durkheim has viewed deviance as a source of innovation and change in society. Robert Merton has further given the theory of anomie, wherein he states that deviance occurs when people are unable to attain things by the conventional behavior or find that their sources to achieve the means or goals are blocked in some way. E.g. food is a basic necessity for everyone, when we may look at someone working as a daily wage labor, there will be days that the person may not get a wage and may not be able to afford food for himself or his family, in such a case he may resort to means such as stealing or find other ways to make extra money, such as by selling drugs, this amounts for the indulgence in deviant behavior due to the inability to meet one’s basic needs.
Further, he had recognized five types of reaction to deviance, conformity, rebellion, ritualism, retreatism and innovation in his strain theory, which entails that the structures of the society put strain on the person as they do not equally divide the resources and thus force the individuals to take part in behavior that is deviant.
Here the conformity refers to the acceptance of the cultural goals and values and the means of attaining these goals and values.
Innovation refers to the idea of accepting the goals and values but rejecting the ways in which these goals are to be obtained and creating new ways to obtain them.
Ritualism refers to the idea of rejecting the goals and values but continuing the ways and actions to achieve these goals. e.g. one may not work with becoming rich and attaining a higher social position as an ultimate goal, however, he/she may continue to carry out that work for his/her sustenance and to be able to feed his/her family.
Rebellion refers to the rejection of both the goals as well as the means of achieving it and trying to introduce new goals and means of achieving them to society.
And lastly, retreatism refers to the rejection of both the goals and means and retreating to or indulging in substance abuse.
Deviance is thus an inevitable part of the society but at the same time, there are always measures present in the society to correct the deviant behavior.