Explaining Social Deviance : The Great Courses: Psychology

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Paul Root Wolpe
  • Series: The Great Courses: Psychology
  • 7 hrs and 33 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

How do deviants reconcile their behavior with society's norms? This set of 10 lectures examines the complex topic of deviance and how major sociological theories have attempted to define it and understand its role in both historical and modern society. Professor Wolpe introduces deviance as "a complex, often ambiguous, social phenomenon that raises numerous questions about how a varied and often arbitrary set of characteristics can be used to name the same idea."
Intended for those with some understanding of sociology, these lectures trace Western theories of deviance from classical demonism to constructionism. Along the way, you'll get a chance to investigate a range of fascinating, thought-provoking, and sometimes even frightening topics and issues.
You'll discover the relationship between deviance and criminology, and come to terms with three major sociological perspectives on deviance in human society. You'll explore the concept of demonism, with divides the world into good and evil, and see how it's often been used to explain and categorize bad behavior when no other explanations are available. You'll learn about the influence of science on sociological thought as proposed by a range of important thinkers, as well as the impact of this science on everything from the IQ controversy to the eugenics movement to Social Darwinism.
Professor Wolpe has crafted an engaging series of discussions that are sure to have you looking at the world around you (and the people in them) in a new way.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Great grounding for social deviance

Would you consider the audio edition of Explaining Social Deviance to be better than the print version?

The added value of the audio version is the inflection of the professors voice giving you additional insight into what he is trying to communicate.


What was one of the most memorable moments of Explaining Social Deviance?

Control theory as roughly analogized to his daughter taking a lollipop off the store counter. Another memorable moment was the story about 'Monster'.


Which scene was your favorite?

The conversations about labeling in combination with differential association was the most interesting to me because I think it speaks to some of the violent behavior we see in schools these days.


Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I listened to each chapter during my commute which is about an hour each direction.


Any additional comments?

The format is structured like a college lecture, but the tone is conversational and very easy to listen to and enjoy.

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- Tom

Fascinating history. Specious logic.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

This series should have been called Constructionist (or Learning Theory): A Debunking of Hard Science.

Paul Wolpe spends the first 5 hours (7 lectures) detailing the fascinating history of pseudo-scientific theory of phrenology before introducing the origin of modern Sociological theory.

These stories run parallel to numerous arguments on the fluid and arbitrary definition of "deviance" and what constitutes deviant behavior. This was precisely what I was hoping for from this lecture series.

And then everything changed. "Explaining Social Deviance" is not truly the crux of this course. Instead the title is merely an entry point for Wolpe to make broader, unrelated philosophical arguments.

By the 10th lecture Wolpe devolves into an unexpected (and fundamentally incorrect) deconstruction of "Hard Science," during which he tries to discredit the Theory of Evolution and the Scientific Method in general. He implies that the laboratory is unnatural (ie. the use of genetically modified lab mice and purified water not available anywhere on the planet) and therefore the tests and discoveries made therein are also unnatural.

To Wolpe, the tenets of mathematics and science are deceptive and dangerous: He doesn't care much for isolating variables, creating repeatable tests, and ensuring that his theories are falsifiable. Sadly, it is the neglect of these very tenets that leads to the creation of damaging pseudosciences, which he warned against at the opening of the series.

Wolpe's conclusions left me disappointed, disheartened, and reminded of Richard Feynman's wise words regarding Science: "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool."

Mr. Wolpe has fooled himself (and many, many others according to his academic credentials). I hope he does not fool you.


Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?

Absolutely. I have enjoyed 10 other Great Courses lectures and have many more awaiting in my queue.


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- Taylor Haswell

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses