Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Speaking of "Norms", What Do Sociologists Mean By "Normative"?

In addition to my posts on "is the word 'normative' academic jargon" here and here,

a political theorist friend asks:

Why do sociologists use "normative" in a different way other than the common understanding? I found it so confusing when I encountered this secondary usage: a sociologist of deviance I knew used it to mean "conforming to expected behavior"; as in, "the opposite of deviant." And this wasn't her own idiosyncratic usage; it seems to be common in some areas of sociology and psychology.

I've encountered that formulation of "normative" once or twice. But I have no idea. Perhaps sociologist readers or the good folks at Scatterplot (cough Jeremy Freese cough) could enlighten us.