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Course Description

Observers of human societies are always fascinated with explaining why some members violate commonly accepted standards of conduct. Why are some people evil, mad, dangerous, immoral, or just plain odd? What should we do to stop, cure, or punish these individuals? This course begins by treating social order — not deviance — as the social phenomenon that needs explanation. We will first seek to understand social control, that is, the social processes involved in establishing and maintaining rules and conformity. Only then will we consider the issue of what constitutes deviant behavior, how and why it occurs, and what is done about it. Social control is what gives a social order its power. How are the boundaries of social acceptability embraced, resisted, and rejected? This course considers several major theoretical explanations of deviant behavior. These theories emphasize different aspects of the organization and dynamics of deviance as a social production: how and under what conditions do certain behaviors come to be defined as deviance; how and under what circumstances do individuals or groups become deviant; and, how is a deviant identity managed? We will examine various informal as well as institutional strategies for controlling deviants and reducing deviant behavior.

Tufts summer online courses are designed to provide high-quality, flexible, and interactive courses to Tufts and visiting students. While most online courses are offered in an asynchronous format, some courses may require webinar sessions and/or proctored exams. For more information about online course policies and expectations, please visit

A sample syllabus for this course can be found here

Please note: Syllabus dates, content, and format are subject to change between now and the summer session.