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Deviance

Introduction

Table of Contents

What Is Deviance?

In the latter part of 2000, Houston-based Enron Corporation claimed that it had lost more than $500 million and filed for bankruptcy. An investigation revealed that Enron’s accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, had reported artificially inflated earning figures and hidden Enron’s debts, which amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars. Thousands of Enron workers lost their jobs and millions in retirement savings. Overall responsibility for the financial debacle fell on the shoulders of two people: Andrew Fastow (CFO) and Kenneth Lay (Chairman and CEO).

Fastow and Lay, two wealthy white men who did not commit a violent crime, don’t seem to fit the label deviant. However, Fastow and Lay did violate the norms of society. Sociologists can use these men and their behavior to illustrate how definitions of deviance vary between cultures and between societies—even between communities—and how consequences for deviant behavior can vary depending on many factors.

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