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Illegal Drugs, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

The use of such illegal drugs as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and meth is considered deviant behavior in contemporary American culture: it is both illegal and often subject to social censure. From the perspective of Durkheim’s functionalist theory, drug use may be interpreted as a means of constructing and reifying social norms, thereby promoting conformity (Barkan, n.d., sec. 7.2; Andersen & Taylor, 2007, p. 167). From this perspective, the criminalization of drug use and popular censure of it essentially serve the function of ‘protecting’ society from such behavior (Andersen & Taylor, 2007, p. 167). And by enforcing these norms by punishing those who violate them, those who conform gain solidarity with each other: in essence, they become more cohesive by closing ranks against the rule-breakers (p. 167).

The symbolic interactionist perspective of differential association theory, on the other hand, interprets drug use in terms of deviant subcultures (Barkan, n.d., sec. 7.2; Clinard & Meier, 2011, pp. 101-102). Differential association theory portrays deviant behavior as the product, indeed the prerogative, of deviant subcultures: in essence, ‘deviants’ are simply people who have internalized a different set of norms from their friends, family, etc. than those followed by the rest of society (Barkan, n.d., sec. 7.2; Clinard & Meier, 2011, pp. 101-102). As such, deviants necessarily associate with each other, clustering together and differentiating themselves from the rest of society by transmitting the motivations and rationalizations for deviant behavior that define their subculture (Clinard & Meier, 2011, p. 102). A more concise description of the “stoner” subculture one could not hope to find: indeed, the characteristics of those who use illegal drugs lend themselves quite readily to differential association theory. In essence, differential association is the clustering of socially-defined and –constructed ‘deviants’ into an alternative and subaltern social space, bounded by norms and assumptions that are divergent from mainstream society, and thus serve to define the participants.

References

Andersen, M. L., & Taylor, H. F. (2007). Sociology: Understanding a diverse society (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education.

Barkan, S. E. (n.d.). Sociology: understanding and changing the social world.

Clinard, M. B., & Meier, R. F. (2011). Sociology of deviant behavior (14th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

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