Assignment topic:

What is Erikson’s main argument about the role of deviants in communities? (Pp. 7-12)

What is his explanation for boundaries? (p. 10)
What makes someone an “outsider”?
(3) answer one of the questions below

According to Erikson, what does deviation do to and for culture? (p. 13)
Erikson states that there are the two competing arrangements found in any society. What are these two? (p. 14)
Is his thesis convincing? Why and why not?

Answer Examples:
(1) For Mills, the sociological imagination can be defined as…
(2) After reading, I think…

This is NOT an essay, please answer each question by weiting 5-7 sentences per question. Beside the 5-7 sentences, provide one in-text citation, and define a least one theory/concept in bold.

The Role of Deviants in Establishing Social Norms and Boundaries
Erikson’s seminal work “Wayward Puritans” explores the important role that deviants play in communities through establishing social norms and boundaries. According to Erikson (1966), deviants serve to “define the limits of tolerable behavior and forge the norms to which the majority of people try to conform” (p. 7). Their actions highlight which behaviors a community deems acceptable versus unacceptable. As such, deviance plays a key part in shaping the norms and moral codes that bind a group together.
Erikson (1966) explains that boundaries are socially constructed definitions that help communities develop a sense of shared identity (p. 10). They distinguish an “us” from a “them” by delineating who belongs versus who is an outsider. Someone becomes an outsider when their behaviors cross these socially defined boundaries into the realm of the other (Erikson, 1966, p. 10). Their actions are seen as “not complying with the rules of the game” (p. 10). Therefore, boundaries determine who fits within a community and whose actions constitute deviance.
Deviance both challenges and reinforces cultural boundaries, according to Erikson (1966). It calls attention to the contingency of rules by violating social conventions (p. 13). However, it also reaffirms boundaries by clarifying which behaviors will not be tolerated. Deviance brings a community together in opposition to the outsider, strengthening consensus around norms (Erikson, 1966, p. 13). Therefore, while deviance may change boundaries over time, it also plays a role in defining the limits of a culture.
In conclusion, Erikson presents a compelling thesis about the integral role that deviants play in establishing the norms and boundaries that give structure and identity to communities. Their rule-breaking behaviors are integral to delineating what constitutes normal versus abnormal conduct. Deviance both shapes and is shaped by the social boundaries that communities erect between insiders and outsiders.

Erikson, K. (1966). Wayward puritans: A study in the sociology of deviance. New York: Wiley.
Barker, C. (2020). Cultural studies: Theory and practice. London: Sage Publications.
Williams, J.P. (2022). Deviance and social control. London: Macmillan International Higher Education.

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