Howard Becker Studies in the Sociology of Deviance

Although there had been anterior research into aberrant labels, Howard Becker is hailed as the found of the modern labelling theory. Founded in Foreigners: Surveies in the Sociology of Deviance, it is this labelling theory that is possibly his most of import influential part to sociological and criminological cognition. Becker ‘s influences came from Cooley ‘s “ looking-glass ego ”, Mead ‘s theories on the internalization of the ego, and Lemert ‘s “ societal constructionism ”. Becker suggests that aberrance is based on reactions and responses of others ‘ labelling an single as such. He states that “ no peculiar act is inherently aberrant unless until a group with socially powerful positions or places label it as such ” .

This attack to labelling aberrance has become manifest in criminological and sociological research, and the development of the labelling theory. Becker opens Outsiders authorship:

“ … societal groups create aberrance by doing regulations whose misdemeanor creates aberrance, and by using those functions to peculiar people and labelling them as foreigners. From this point of position, aberrance isA notA a quality of the act the individual commits, but instead a effect of the application by others of regulations and countenances to an ‘offender. ‘ The pervert is one to whom that label has been successfully applied ; aberrant behavior is behaviour that people so label ”.

Merely as society uses the stigma of the aberrant label to warrant its disapproval, the person labelled uses it to warrant their actions. Becker attempts “ to set a complex statement in a few words: alternatively of the pervert motives taking to the aberrant behavior, it is the other manner around, the aberrant behavior in clip produces the aberrant motive ” .

In Outsiders, Becker views aberrance as the creative activity of societal groups by individuals in places of power instead than the quality of some act or behavior. Becker disagrees with other theories of aberrance, which accept the being of aberrance, and by making so, merely accept the values and of the bulk within a peculiar societal group. Harmonizing to Becker, analyzing the act of the person is unimportant as it is simply interrupting the regulations made by those in power – the regulation interrupting behavior is changeless and it is the labelling of such behaviors that alterations. He describes regulations as “ the contemplation of certain societal norms held by the bulk of a society, whether formal or informal ”. Clearly, in a society where condemnable activity is the norm, the 1 who chooses non to conform, should non be labelled as pervert for non perpetrating offenses. However, it could be said that they are aberrant as they are non moving as expected and are ‘deviating ‘ from the norm.

Becker ‘s attack, nevertheless, focuses on implemented regulations. He views those who are likely to prosecute in rule-breaking behavior as basically different from those of the rule-making or rule-abiding society. He believes that those individuals who are “ prone to rule-breaking behaviors see themselves morally at odds with those members of the rule-abiding society ”. Becker uses the term ‘outsider ‘ to depict a rule-breaker who accepts the label of ‘deviant ‘ and hence position themselves as outside mainstream society.

Becker besides focuses on those in places of power that have the authorization to hold what regulations society should stay by and who enforce those regulations. Harmonizing to Becker, the creative activity and enforcement of these regulations is an “ enterprising act ”. He hints at differing with the ethical motives and concluding behind those who make and implement these regulations, gaining that while some may hold a moral campaign to forestall offense, most engage in the procedure purely because it is a demand of their career. Becker wrote “ Rule hatchet mans use the procedure of formal enforcement to fulfill two major involvements, the justification of their business and the winning of regard from the people he/she patrols ”. He recognises that persons who would non usually be prone to rule-breaking may go so by the abuse of labelling powers as a consequence of the hatchet man mistreating the great trade of discretion they are armed with.

Becker concludes Foreigners by naming for empirical research of his attack to the labelling theory. As a consequence, there has been a huge sum of response from societal scientists. Some research has straight reflected Becker ‘s attack, whilst others have used his labelling theory as a foundation on which they furthered the theory.

Gideon Fishman, for illustration, tested his theory by analyzing a sample of juvenile delinquents in mid-western America. Fishman ‘s surveylooked at negative self-perception and whether this self-perception affects future misbehavior. His consequences indicated that, although some accept the label of aberrance and farther entrench themselves in aberrant behavior, it is by no agencies universal ; persons react to the label in different ways.

A popular application of Becker ‘s labelling theory is in the research into mental wellness. Thomas Scheff adopts Becker ‘s positions on labelling theory and explains how people are “ labeled mentally ill in order to explicate certain rule-breaking behavior that society ca n’t categorize ”. Wrightand Pfohlrecognise that Scheff is non concerned with occasional Acts of the Apostless of aberrance, but the lasting and sporadic aberrance that is frequently considered under mental unwellness. Peoples who are later labelled as ‘mentally sick ‘ frequently adopt the behavior they would personally anticipate of a stereotyped mental wellness patient as portrayed through the media. Scheff identifies that we will all expose symptoms of mental unwellness at some point in our lives, and “ labels are attached to those without power ”. Scheff argues persons who become stereotypically mentally sick, or at least act as such, are “ rewarded by enterprising psychological science professionals ”. Empirical grounds of this can be found in several surveies by Scheff into the procedure of mental infirmary committedness.

In transporting out his ain research into the labelling theory, Edwin Schur modifies Becker ‘s attack in Labeling Deviant Behaviour, by switching some of the focal point to the aberrant person. He claims that, “ if people who are labelled aberrant can form and derive power within the society, they will be able to alter social positions on what is or what is non considered pervert ”.A A Schur says that this “ alteration in power may come in the signifier of rebellions, societal motions, and even civil discord, which could finally ensue in the formation of a strong political group. ”

Howard Becker has been criticised on much of his work on many degrees, and these unfavorable judgments must be explored before any rating of his part to criminological cognition can be made.

Becker himself examines some of the unfavorable judgments made of the theory in his book “ Labelling Theory Reconsidered ”. First, he addresses those who have said it is non a true theory. He points out that instead than being an across-the-board theory of aberrance, labelling ‘theory ‘ was established as “ a manner of looking at a general country of human activity ”, and non, he claims, “ a theory, with all the accomplishments and duties that go with the rubric, nor focused so entirely on the act of labelling as some have thought ”.

He points out that the construct of morality can be debatable in its research and reading. He contemplates on where the research worker ‘s understandings should lie and considers whether one should side with the ‘outsider ‘ or merely ascertain condemnable activity as per se incorrect? He stresses the troubles of the sociologist of this determination, recognizing that the research worker, “ whether taking either side, will be accused of taking a nonreversible and deformed position. So we so inquire how is it possible to see the state of affairs from both sides at the same time ”? I agree that Becker is right in raising this unfavorable judgment, as it is slightly impossible to be wholly un-bias on the footing that no research worker is capable of non transporting any kind of pre-conformed sentiment or position on society and will, without uncertainty, have moral values, right or wrongly. In Whose Side Are We On, Becker goes every bit far as to state that “ the labelling theoretician must side with the deviator, as it is up to the sociologists to rectify unjust state of affairss ”.

Becker besides points out there is jobs with secretiveness. The aberrant person, in many instances, will perpetrate aberrant Acts of the Apostless in secretiveness and will non what their actions to go universally known, particularly when those Acts of the Apostless are condemnable. This poses trouble in deriving a true penetration into the universe of the aberrant person and therefore jeopardises the cogency of the labelling theory. Becker ‘s claim was found to be right by Humphrey in his survey ‘Tearoom Trade ‘. In many instances, the persons take parting in homosexual behavior in the teashops were married with kids, and accordingly, when subsequently asked in a questionnaire about their positions on homosexualism, really few admitted their ain visits to the teashops. This impression of secretiveness among perverts will doubtless do jobs for research workers and their research.

It is besides really hard for research workers to detect the daily lives of aberrant persons, in what are possibly extremely unsafe topographic points, as there are jobs of infiltration and deriving the trust of what may be violent and unsafe people. If the research worker is able to derive such entree, they so face the undertakings of staying impartial in their observations, to go on to detect without going involved in condemnable activity themselves, and even seeking to forestall offenses being committed. This can be seen in Parker ‘s “ View from the Boys ”, where he studied male childs in an country of Liverpool. Parker was merely able to derive penetration as he had antecedently met the male childs he was analyzing at a Centre for Liverpool ‘s disadvantaged kids. He says, nevertheless, “ If I had non been immature, haired, bibulous, willing to maintain long hours, accept permissive criterions, the affair would ne’er hold worked ”. He besides admits that his presence affected the behavior and actions of the male childs. On occasions he prevented them from perpetrating offenses and even went every bit far as to assist them if they were caught.

In his research and development of the labelling theory, Becker does n’t turn to how factors such as biological science, familial effects and personal duty can act upon, if at all, aberrant persons behaviour. After this met a bombardment of unfavorable judgment, he answered his critics in his 1973 edition of his work. He wrote that while sociological research workers are dedicated to happening an understanding about society, they are “ frequently excessively careful to look excessively closely ” . Becker noted “ ” I prefer to believe of what we study asA corporate action.A People act, as Mead and Blumer have made clearest, A together. They do what they do with an oculus on what others have done, are making now, and may make in the hereafter. One tries to suit his ain line of action into the actions of others, merely as each of them likewise adjusts his ain developing actions to what he sees and expects others to make ”. Francis Cullen believed Becker was excessively generous with his critics. He recognised that after 20 old ages, far from being supplanted, have been corrected and absorbed into an expanded “ structuring position ”. Becker ‘s proposing that instead than merely knock him for non including these factors in his research, these sociologists should utilize those factors to assist develop the labelling theory themselves.

What I believe to be the greatest defect in the labelling theory is the impression that “ no Acts of the Apostless are inherently condemnable ”, they merely become condemnable when society has deemed them as such. This seems to be proposing that without the individuals in power seeking to “ fulfill two major involvements: the justification of their business and the winning of regard from the people ”by implementing Torahs, there would be no ‘deviant ‘ . So does this mean that merely because it could n’t be ‘labelled ‘ as such, it would n’t be? Just because something ca n’t be specifically labelled as such does non intend that it ceases to happen. I agree with Becker ‘s statement that people become aberrant if they are ‘expected ‘ to go so by society, but I fail be of the same head that this is the ground behind the bulk of aberrant behavior. In my sentiment, the labelling of aberrance comes after the pervert act occurs.

The theory besides claims that for a condemnable to be successfully labelled, an audience must be present to supply a reaction to the offenses committed. So does this mean that if a slaying is committed and the slayer avoids intuition or being caught, they are non a condemnable and will non believe of themselves in such a manner? It is likely that the slayer will hold some thought of ethical motives and what is conceived to be inherently right and incorrect as a consequence of their ain socialization, and so could initialize self-labelling, but the theory clearly states the labelling must come from a 3rd party.

In trying to measure the part of Becker to the survey of criminology and more specifically the sociology of aberrance, it is of import to observe that it depends on how the theory is viewed. If the theory is considered as “ a theory, with all the accomplishment and duties that go with the rubric ”so its defects are many. Yet, if we consider the theory, as Becker suggests we do, as a mere manner of looking at aberrance, so the part could be said to be important. Becker, unlike old theoreticians, did non merely look at the after-effects of a aberrant act but considered the manner one begins to fall pervert. In his survey of marihuana users, for illustration, he considers how one begins to smoke. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Becker ‘s attack to the labelling theory, the bulk, if non all, will utilize that sentiment to so organize their ain thoughts and attacks to the survey of aberrance, as is apparent from the sum of review Becker has obtained. As a consequence, one can reason that Becker ‘s attack to the labelling theory continues in its utility, and will stay to make so every bit long as aberrant behavior continues to be.

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