The debate concerning deviance and divergence: A new theoretic proposal




Criminology, deviance, social conflicts, social control, social divergence, Criminología, desviación, conflictos sociales, control social, divergencia social


This article discusses theoretical questions related to the notion of social deviance, a concept that has been a pillar of criminology and sociology since the mid-20th century. We argue that social deviance is not equipped with adequate analytic devices to satisfactorily describe social actions labelled as transgressions. This discussion reconsiders the notion of social deviance, recasting its theoretical significance and use in the field of criminology. In its place, we advance the category of social divergence, highlighting its greater analytical power to address social actions that trigger penal control interventions. Social divergence is a novel conceptual contribution in the tradition of the sociology of conflict. Its purpose is to offer an analytical model of social conflicts and their inner workings as key elements to describe, analyze and improve our understanding of their interactions with penal control systems from a criminological perspective.

Este artículo expone una discusión crítica de la noción de desviación social, un concepto que ha sido pilar de la teoría criminológica y sociológica desde mediados del siglo XX. Sostenemos que la desviación social no está adecuadamente provista como dispositivo analítico para describir satisfactoriamente las acciones sociales que se etiquetan como transgresiones. La discusión reconsidera los alcances de la noción de desviación social, reformulando su significado teórico y su uso en el campo de la criminología. En su lugar, proponemos la categoría de divergencia social, destacando su mayor potencia analítica para abordar las acciones sociales que desencadenan intervenciones de control penal. La divergencia social es una contribución conceptual novedosa en la tradición de la sociología del conflicto. Su propósito es ofrecer un modelo analítico de los conflictos sociales y su funcionamiento interno como elementos clave para describir, analizar y mejorar nuestra comprensión de sus interacciones con los sistemas de control penal desde una perspectiva criminológica.


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Author Biographies

Germán Silva-García, Universidad de Barcelona/Universidad Católica de Colombia

PhD in Sociology and Master’s degree in Penal Systems and Social Problems, Universidad de Barcelona, Law degree, Universidad Externado de Colombia. Dean and researcher, Faculty of Law, Universidad Católica de Colombia, Conflict and Criminality research group.  Contact: Calle 47 13-54, Bogotá, Colombia +57 310 565 7956.

Angélica Vizcaíno-Solano, Universidad Católica de Colombia

PhD Candidate in Law, Universidad Católica de Colombia, Master´s degree in Public Law, Universidad La Gran Colombia, Economics degree, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Law Degree, Universidad La Gran Colombia. Lecturer and researcher,  Faculty of Law, Universidad Católica de Colombia, Conflict and Criminality research group. Calle 47 13-54, Bogotá, Colombia +57 310 565 7956.

Bernardo Pérez-Salazar, Faculty of Law, Universidad Católica de Colombia

Corresponding author. PhD candidate Education, Universidad Santo Tomás de Bogotá; Master´s degree y Regional Development Planning,  Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, The Netherlands. Social Communication degree Universidad del Valle. Lecturer and researcher, Faculty of Law, Universidad Católica de Colombia, Conflict y Criminality research group. Contact: Calle 47 13-54, Bogotá, +57 310 565 7956.


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How to Cite

Silva-García, G., Vizcaíno-Solano, A. and Pérez-Salazar, B. (2024) “The debate concerning deviance and divergence: A new theoretic proposal”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 14(2), pp. 505–529. doi: 10.35295/osls.iisl.1813.