SOC327 2017 Tut9 – Mon 1330

Why do people do ‘bad’ things? Is it because they feel bad – or because those bad things feel good? It’s not hard to find instances of terrible, scary things in popular media – youth gone wild, health epidemics, crime waves, etc. Sometimes these are beat-ups and moral panics; and sometimes they are more common than we think, or even unbelievably real. Nasty incidents of online trolling and attacks are commonplace, and mass gatherings channeling anger and even hatred occurred as recently as just over ten years ago Australia in the form of the Cronulla Riots.

But why do these things happen? What are the emotions that drive these acts? There can be a simple thrill or joy in doing the wrong thing – what Jack Katz calls the ‘seductions of crime’ – that tricks and compels some people into committing anti-social acts, but are these secretive, individualized compulsions not shaped by how we relate – or fail to relate authentically – to the people around us? Do we not deviate because we feel (and often hide) a sense of deviance, and maybe even shame? Is it shame and fear of the challenge to identities – to conventional masculine dominance, or the threat of job loss from globalization – that compels some young men to anger and violence, as Ghassan Hage has argued occurred on Cronulla Beach eleven years ago? How do all these feeling mix and feed off each other – fear, shame, repression, thrills, and anger – in the dynamics of deviance?

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26 Comments

  1. Like all emotions, fear, shame and anger influence each other and evolve together. Such emotions also seem to be infectious, and have the ability to act as group bonding. The compounding effect of such emotions is evident in the ideology of ‘fear of the other’ which has been prominent throughout Western media in the 21st century. Globalisation, which involves the movement of ideas, products and people across borders, has given rise to the notion of ‘the other’ (commonly conceptualised as ‘east vs. west’ or ‘us vs. them’). Hage (2009) argues that this shift in global relations brought about “a new wave of paranoid White nationalism”.

    Trump’s election campaign last year is a prime example of how emotion motivates individuals, groups and whole societies. Trump spoke of the frightening threats that outsiders pose to the American people and instilled in the citizens a feeling of frightened solidarity. Furthermore emotions such as fear and anger can be seen as drivers of political unrest and a range of deviant behaviours in the US that all stem from a fear of the unknown.

  2. What can be considered a ‘bad thing’? In the Cronulla Riots, the violence was perceived to be awful by many, while numerous others involved considered themselves to be some sort of hero protecting their country. What may be considered deviant by some, may be considered a form of expression by others, depending on the emotions they are feeling at the time. These emotions feed on one another and the context of the situation will either make the situation better or worse.

    Binary concepts such as “us” and “them” generates stigma which results in fear, then hate. Globalisation has created a world where we are competing against one another, which has created higher rates of stress and anxiety. Due to this, deviant acts have occurred due to people being unable to suppress their anger and shame. Often, these negative emotions are masked (as seen with the so-called “patriotism” in the Cronulla riots) in order for individuals to feel less guilt over their actions.

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  3. I feel there is an interplay of multiple emotions when doing or even considering doing ‘bad things’. But as stated by Ashleigh Macintosh previously, what one would consider a ‘bad thing’ is merely an expression of this emotion. Take the example of a ‘deviant’ teenager, as explored by Katz, these individuals don’t fix the profiles of those predicted to undergo criminal activity, yet they might get involved in these activities; stealing etc. This is most likely due to the mixed emotions within the individual, fear, loneliness, thrills or anger driving them to due these criminal acts or ‘bad things’.

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  4. Emotions have the ability to build and converge over time, creating complex emotions, particularly when repressed or hidden. Feelings of fear, anger, shame, and confusion, when ignored, can evolve into a sense of hatred and disgust. The initial catalyst for doing ‘bad’ things can vary. It may be due to a desire for ‘justice’, or for thrills, or even just because the opportunity presents itself. I believe that one of the greatest catalysts for significant expressions of negative behaviours and ‘bad’ acts is the mob-mentality. Within this mentality, comradery develops and ideas and beliefs are justified and supported, with the potential to build and a safe-place to express such emotions and desires, the potential for mass-deviance increases.
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  5. What one considers a ‘bad’ thing, someone else may consider it as a good, be it a moral good such as vigilanteism, or a general expression of individualism. Complex emotions feed on one another and the context of the situation will either make the situation better or worse. Katz considers the example of a deviant teenager, and what may drive them to bad behaviour, concluding that it is most likely due to the mixed emotions within the individual, fear, loneliness, thrills or anger driving them to these criminal acts or ‘bad things’.

  6. There are four main sociological theories to explain Deviance:
    Differential Associations Theory: Behaviours are learnt by someone who you have an intense relationship with, with the intensity of the contact taken in to consideration and the ratio of “good” to “bad” social contacts in the “learner’s” life.
    ”Differential Associations Theory: Behaviours are learnt by someone who you have an intense relationship with, with the intensity of the contact taken in to consideration and the ratio of “good” to “bad” social contacts in the “learner’s” life.”
    Control Theory: ”Social control theories, however, focus primarily on external factors and the processes by which they become effective. Deviance and crime occur because of inadequate constraints.”
    ” basic social factors/components of a social bond between individuals: 1. attachment — a measure of the connectedness between individuals. 2. commitment — a measure of the stake a person has in the community. 3. involvement — a measure of the time/energy a person is spending on activities that are helpful to the community. 4. belief — a measure of the person’s support for the morals and beliefs of the community”
    Labelling Theory: ”Labelling theory takes the view that people become criminals when labelled as such and when they accept the label as a personal identity. Important concepts in labelling theory include primary (refers to episodes of deviant behaviour that many people participate in) and secondary deviance (when someone makes something out of that deviant behaviour, which creates a negative social label that changes a person’s self-concept and social identity), as well as the importance of being stigmatized.”
    Structural Strain Theory/Anomie Theory: ”explains deviant behaviour as an inevitable outcome of the strain individuals experience when society does not provide adequate and approved means to achieve culturally valued goals.”
    Anomie refers to the condition of which society does not provide (or provides very little) moral guidance to individuals.
    Hage states how “… attitude throughout Australian culture by making it the very ideology of White reassertion. It is a paradoxical hybrid which not only asserted a belief in the cultural superiority of ‘Western’ values, but which managed to fuse a sense of being threatened with a sense of domination”. This was in regards to the Cronulla Riots and Hage identifies how pride “superiority” and fear of domination lead to the fuelling of anger and violence.

  7. I think Jack Katz work explains very well why people do ‘bad things’. The Seductions of Crime, and the thrill that comes with doing something that ought not to be done can create what Katz notes as a ‘sexual quality’. The rush, build up and climax of these events can be done by oneself, but I think looking at the example of the Cronulla riots, that group mentality also highly accelerated the situation. Hage (2009) notes these riots as a ‘festival of self-indulgence’ with people not thinking of the consequences, so I think in some instances, fear and shame do not come into the equation, only the thrills.

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    • I agree with Em in saying that Katz perfectly highlights the concept of thrill in relation to people doing ‘bad things.’ Along with the sexual quality of crime, which provides perpetrators with the rush they desire, he also notes the “ludic metaphor” which relates to the game like quality of property crime such as shoplifting and vandalism. Fear, shame and anger are not always a constituent of crime in cases where perpetrators are purely acting out for thrill to ‘win the game.’ The physiological effects caused by thrill are often extremely addictive and ‘feel so good’ that it causes perpetrators of minor crimes to continue doing ‘bad things.’

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  8. What may be seen as a ‘bad thing’ by an individual or a group of people, can often be seen as a positive by someone else. I think that in everything we do or think there are a multitude of complex emotions that contribute to our thoughts and decisions, and these emotions often differ from person to person. Jack Katz explores the actions of a deviant teenager; I think he provides an excellent explanation of why people do ‘bad things’. Katz suggests that emotions play a big part in people’s actions, and I agree. The emotions that a teenager may experience such as fear, loneliness and anger are often catalysts in the decision making when they engage in criminal acts or ‘bad things’ such as stealing and vandalism.

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  9. I believe that people do perpetrate stigma or bad behaviour due to a feeling of rush, accomplishment and a sense of craving an object.

    As for the emotional influence as to why these behaviours occur, there could be a number of reasons. Rage and shame could be seen as contributed to stigma

    • Perpetrating socially inappropriate stigma leads to shame and then rage, the victim of this rage then experiences shame and rage creating a cycle.
    • Larger social contexts that threaten individuals and yet are outside of their control leads to perpetrating stigma against a perceived enemy or other.
    • There may be an emotional gratification in creating a self based around deviant acts such as stigma, either through pride of maintain two selves or through other people being ignorant of the true self.

    The Cronulla riots could explain as a sense of shame or inadequacy in face of changing global contexts such as globalisation as well a stigma being perpetrated due to long-standing racial beliefs.

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  10. Perhaps anger and frustration fuel our deviances, but it is the rush and euphoria that we gain in the aftermath that keeps us going back for more. As Katz (1988) states, we are seduced by the desire for deviance. We endure a rush or an urge of emotion, whether it be anger, impulse, aggravation or just simply curiosity, which thrusts us into deceitful behaviours. Thrill seekers generally find power, joy and contentment in such behaviours, in comparison to those with a high moral grounding, which may feel shame and guilt after particular devious behaviour. However, the opinion on the severity of such ill behaviour is determined by the surrounding society.

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  11. I also believe that anger and frustration promote deviance. The emotions associated with committing a crime or bad behavior is what encourages people to continue to do it. As mentioned by numerous people, Jack Katz has a great theory explaining why people do bad things. He identifies that emotions play a vital role in how some interacts with the world. Suicidal thoughts, loneliness and fear are just a few emotions that could fuel an individual to engaging in bad behavior such as stealing or taking drugs.

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  12. Whether or not an action is classified as “bad” is often up to individual and societal opinion – something deemed bad in one cultural, could be completely acceptable in another, although there are cases where a behaviour is clearly negative. Katz discusses the “euphoria of being thrilled” that some individual’s receive from bad behaviour i.e. shoplifting (1988), indicating that emotions play a large role in people’s actions, with passionate emotions such as anger, envy and jealousy often driving bad behaviour for selfish reasons. In groups of people, emotions tend to feed off each other, creating a larger environment for deviance to occur in.

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    • I agree with the point that Caitlin is making in regards to how an action being classified as “bad” is often culturally influenced. Terrorism is a clear example of this. In Western culture it is usually viewed as horrific and wrong. Alternatively, other groups may view it as a normalised action that is acceptable to carry out. Therefore, this raises the question why can something be viewed so differently in certain social groups/cultures? I would suggest it is due to the norms and values learned during primary and secondary socialisation that would significantly influence this. Therefore, someone’s judgement on whether an act right or wrong is determined by their social environment.

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  13. Each individual will respond to a ‘bad’ situation with a series of predisposed emotions represented by shifts in societal perspective. However, individual experience and misfortune i.e. abused childhood, very low SES status etc will introduce actions that may be driven by survival but may invoke the “Rage-Shame cycle” introducing issues such as vandalism and shop lifting. These specific situations highlight Katz argument that these forms of deviance test the degree to which others can detect this misbehaviour which may be influenced by a troubled family life and disrupted education.

  14. While globalisation is beneficial in bringing people together, it’s equality as powerful in turning them against each other as seen in the Cronulla Riots. Contextual factors amplify and contribute to the repression and expression of emotion, with the Cronulla riots engulfing individuals (and their emotions) into anti-social behaviour and the given context. From an outsider perspective these ‘bad’ acts to those involved may have stemmed from feeling ‘good over a perceived justice’.

    In a sense, the pack mentalities of the attacks relate to the ‘ludic’ quality that Katz (1988, p. 67) relates to “a kind of game” creating a thrill for those in the riots to participate. The expression and experience of feelings of fear, shame, repression, and anger (particularly in relation to the pack mentality and the dynamics of deviance) then transform into Thomas Scheff’s ‘rage-shame’ cycle (as mentioned in the lecture), whereby an individual “directs their (perceived) anger towards the other, which provokes a similar oppositional emotional response, and in turn produces and maintains a cycle of enmity”.

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  15. The reasons why people do ‘bad’ things are often complex. For example, Merton outlines how individuals may feel a ‘strain to anomie’ whereby they are not achieving the ‘American Dream’. Consequently, they turn to illegitimate means to compensate for this, such as theft. Emotions such as frustration, impatience and envy may influence someone to do this whilst the thrill of the act may cause one to feel shame and guilt afterwards or excited to repeat it again. An explanation for this could be the idea of immediate gratification which is common in a globalised world because we are used to accessing things quickly such as fast food. Therefore, perhaps people experience a combination of emotions that are exacerbated by personal circumstances which drives them to do bad things.

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    Thompson, C H (2013), ‘Merton’s Strain to Anomie’, weblog post, viewed 7 May 2017,

  16. I feel that in the majority of instances that people take actions that an observer would label as “bad things”, is often justified in some small sense by the perpetrator. The new wave of white nationalism as described by Hage can be broken down into concepts of harm, in that many young males may feel a sense of vindication in their actions, as the supposed other has done them wrong. The same may be said of the Cronulla riots, where many may have felt threatened by increased globalism and acted irrationally. Rarely, I believe, will you find people doing “bad things” without some form of purpose, as to not would imply psychopathic and sociopathic tendencies exist in far higher rates in the population than first believed.

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  17. I believe that there are a number of reasons that people do ‘bad things’ particularly due to the notion that deviance stems from emotions and prior experience that an individual themselves has. Deviance is understood as any behaviour that violates social norms and so therefore as Katz suggests getting away with deviant acts allow individuals to feel a sense of power, thereby elevating their own self worth. If we consider the notion that the feelings of anger and shame must be hidden due to the implications of feeling rules, the concealment of these emotions would inherently impact upon a persons own feeling of self worth. Therefore in committing a deviant act and regaining some of the power lost in the concealment of these emotions an individual becomes more easily seduced to commit further acts of deviance.

  18. I believe that emotions such as fear, shame, repression and anger all drive off of each other. All of which can build and converge over a period of time, evolving into a complex emotion. I think people do bad behaviour or ‘bad thing’ due to a rush or sense of adrenaline. However what one person sees as a bad thing, may be seen as a positive to others. Jack Katz theory provides a good understanding of why people do bad things and how emotions play a major influence in the ways people interact in the world.

  19. We can all relate to the thrill of doing something “bad”, especially when no one find out. From eating the slice of cake you were told not to touch, pinching or punching your siblings in that way that siblings do, or taking the $2 coin off the bench to buy chocolate. These are all juvenile “crimes” that don’t cause any real backlash on us even if we are found out. We may be reprimanded for stealing, or smacked for fighting by our parents, but the consequences are minor, and the thrill of doing this at the time is enough to make it worth it. But the real question is when do these minor defiances stop, and what happens if they continue and increase in severity?

    Many more major crimes will often be driven by the compulsion of several different emotions. Fear, pride, shame, anger, lust, repression, they can all be attributed to many crimes, among other emotions. Sometimes, criminals will just attribute their crimes to the thrill of being bad. How we individually feel and respond to these types of emotions is what will dictate whether we fall into the case of criminal activity or not.

  20. Something that I may consider a good thing, one may consider it bad and visa versa. Emotions such as shame, fear, repression and anger propel of each other and thus, evolve a complex emotion. It is through these emotions that have the ability to encourage people into doing it more so, or even worse. The example used about the violence from the Cronulla riots creates different emotions among many. Whilst this event may have been perceived as horrific, many seen it as though it was saving the country.
    Emotions feed on one another and consequently, dictate who we are as a person.

  21. I think fear, thrill and a misplaced sense of anger were the emotions behind the Cronulla riots. Shame may have occurred after the incident, but I think at the time there were media influencers perpetuating a false rumours to strike fear in the town and some individuals express fear through anger.

  22. I think that thrill can motivate people to do ‘bad’ things, however I do not think it is the main contributor to ‘serious’ bad things that have occurred in the world. I think that we get thrills out of silly things, kind of like those idiot friends you get on facebook when you’re a teenager who post photos of themselves standing next to a ‘no loitering’ sign. They do it because it gives them a thrill and also because they’re idiots. But I think that the emotions that motivated more serious ‘bad things’ – criminal things, like the Cronulla race riots – are more complex than mere thrills.

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