Physical Disability as Deviance
According to Becker (1963) in the Labeling Theory of Deviance, deviance is a “label applied to a behavior contrary to the norms of a particular social unit” (qtd in Gibbs, 1990, p.490). Within this context a person is deviant if his behavior is contrary to what is deemed as normal by the conventional and conforming members of society. Hence failure to follow the norms within a particular society will lead to the ascription of the label deviant to an individual. In his article “Disability and Inclusion”, Fitch argues that such a view of deviance fails to account for “the role of interpersonal symbolic interaction in the construction of deviant identities” which leads to the construction of the normal as opposed to the abnormal individual which constructs and defines the relations of power within society (2002, p.469-70). It is thereby necessary to construct a social valuing theory of justice in order to subvert the normative notions set within society which stigmatizes, rejects, and excludes people defined as deviants (Fitch, 2002, p.470).
Within the field of special education, Fitch claims that this may be done through the integration of a critical approach to disability studies with critical multiculturalism in postsecondary education (2002, p.474). He argues that such a process will allow the transformation of the social context which transforms the deviant as the ‘other’ within the classroom setting and within the larger context of society. Transformation here is to be understood as enabling the “transformation of discourses…which blurs, reimagines, and redesrcibes social structures, discourses, and binary distinctions” (Fitch, 2002, p.471). The application of the social valuing theory of justice may thereby be seen in the emphasis Fitch places on the transformation of the value system underlying the creation of the label deviant along with the effects that it entails in the perception and treatment of the deviant who is determined by the labels ascribed to the individual by society.
Ficht, E. (2002). “Disability and Inclusion: From Labeling Deviance to Social Valuing.” Educational Theory 52(4): 463-77.
Gibbs, J. (1990). “Sociology of Deviance and Social Control.” Social Psychology: Sociological Perspective. London: Transaction Publishers.