Difference Between Crime and Deviance

Crime vs Deviance

Man is a social animal and has been living in societies since the beginning of civilizations. Every society has its own culture made up of social norms and values that ensure peace and order among the people. Compliance to these norms by the people is a feature of a society. However, there have always been people who defy norms and exhibit behavior that is considered deviant or one that departs from the normal. To ensure compliance, there is also a written law to deal with criminal behavior that comes within deviance. However, despite similarities, there are differences between crime and deviance that will be highlighted in this article.


All modern societies are governed by the rule of law which means that there are written and codified rules and regulations that are to be followed by all the people of the society. These laws are made by the elected legislators in the assembly. After much deliberation and debate, the legislations are passed and become laws of the land. These laws have the backing of the coercive power of the police and the law courts. People violating these laws can be punished using this coercive power. Any action or behavior that violates these laws is considered as a crime punishable by a court of law.

There are many behaviors that were earlier strictly considered as crimes but with the passage of time and changes in the social perspectives of the society, many of these behaviors today are merely deviances. Examples include prostitution, alcoholism, going nude in public, stealing etc. There are crimes of all sorts and a crime can be petty shoplifting to a serious embezzlement of huge sums of money from the exchequer or the system. There are social crimes like illicit relationships and thefts and also murders and rapes. To deal with different types of crimes, various laws are made to empower courts and police to apprehend criminals and sentence them to prisons according to the provisions of the law.


To have control over the actions and behaviors of individuals and groups in a society, there are system of social norms and mores that are as old as civilizations themselves. These social norms got developed in place of taboos that were used in primitive societies, to keep people away from certain behaviors that were considered dangerous for the society on the whole. Social norms are mostly cultural and usually have religious sanctions though there are also social norms that form the basis of interaction and communication between the members of the society. Deviance is a concept that tells us about the behaviors that depart from the normal and are looked down upon by the society to make people desist from these behaviors.

Fear of God’s curse and punishment in hell are supposed to keep people behave according to social norms as there is no written law to deal with deviant behavior. Societal boycott and ostracism are the ways through which society normally deals with deviance.

What is the difference between Crime and Deviance?

• Deviance is violation of social norms whereas crime is violation of laws of the land.

• Agents of control for deviance are societal pressure and fear of Gods whereas agents of control for crime are police and judiciary.

• Society has no coercive power to deal with deviance but governments have the power of punishment to tackle crime.

• Deviance can be criminal or non criminal, but crime is always criminal in nature.

• Many behaviors that were crimes earlier have today become deviant behaviors.

• Violation of law makes deviance a crime.

• Deviance is not considered as severe as a crime.