Howard Becker Studies in the Sociology of Deviance

Although there have been preceding research into deviant brands, Howard Becker is hailed as the found of the present day labelling theory. Founded in Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance, it is this labelling theory that is perhaps his most significant influential contribution to sociological and criminological knowledge. Becker's affects came from Cooley's "looking-glass do it yourself", Mead's theories on the internalisation of the self applied, and Lemert's "social constructionism". Becker shows that deviance is dependant on reactions and responses of others' labelling an individual as a result. He states that "no particular function is inherently deviant unless until an organization with socially powerful statuses or positions label it therefore".

This approach to labelling deviance has become express in criminological and sociological research, and the development of the labelling theory. Becker starts Outsiders writing

". . . social organizations create deviance by making guidelines whose infraction creates deviance, and by applying those roles to particular people and labelling them as outsiders. Out of this point of view, deviance is not a quality of the function the person commits, but instead a rsulting consequence the application by others of rules and sanctions to a 'offender. ' The deviant is one to whom that label has been successfully applied; deviant behaviour is behaviour that folks so label".

Just as world uses the stigma of the deviant label to justify its disapproval, the individual labelled uses it to justify their actions. Becker endeavors "to put a complex argument in a few words: instead of the deviant motives leading to the deviant behaviour, it is the other way around, the deviant behavior in time produces the deviant desire".

In Outsiders, Becker views deviance as the creation of sociable groups by folks in positions of vitality as opposed to the quality of some work or behaviour. Becker disagrees with other ideas of deviance, which agree to the lifetime of deviance, and by doing so, simply acknowledge the values and of almost all within a particular social group. Corresponding to Becker, learning the act of the average person is unimportant as it is only breaking the guidelines created by those in ability - the rule breaking behavior is constant and it is the labelling of such behaviour that changes. He details guidelines as "the reflection of certain interpersonal norms performed by nearly all a society, whether formal or informal". Plainly, in a society where unlawful activity is the norm, the main one who chooses not to conform, should not be labelled as deviant for not committing crimes. Nevertheless, maybe it's said that they are deviant because they are not acting as expected and are 'deviating' from the norm.

Becker's procedure, however, targets enforced guidelines. He views those who find themselves likely to engage in rule-breaking behavior as essentially different from those of the rule-making or rule-abiding modern culture. He thinks that those folks who are "prone to rule-breaking behavior see themselves morally at probabilities with those members of the rule-abiding world". Becker uses the term 'outsider' to spell it out a rule-breaker who allows the label of 'deviant' and therefore view themselves as outside mainstream culture.

Becker also focuses on those in positions of power which may have the specialist to consider what rules world should abide by and who enforce those rules. Relating to Becker, the creation and enforcement of the rules is an "enterprising act". He clues at disagreeing with the morals and reasoning behind those who make and enforce these rules, realising that although some may have a moral crusade to prevent crime, most take part in the process firmly since it is a requirement of their vocation. Becker published "Guideline enforcers use the procedure of formal enforcement to satisfy two major interests, the justification of the occupation and the winning of respect from people he/she patrols". He recognises that those who wouldn't normally normally be prone to rule-breaking could become so by the misuse of labelling power as a result of the enforcer abusing the fantastic offer of discretion they can be armed with.

Becker concludes Outsiders by calling for empirical research of his method of the labelling theory. Because of this, there has been a huge amount of response from sociable researchers. Some research has directly reflected Becker's way, whilst others have used his labelling theory as a base on which they furthered the idea.

Gideon Fishman, for example, analyzed his theory by learning an example of juvenile delinquents in mid-western America. Fishman's review viewed negative self-perception and whether this self-perception influences future misbehaviour. His results indicated that, although some accept the label of deviance and additional entrench themselves in deviant behavior, it is in no way universal; individuals respond to the label in several ways.

A popular application of Becker's labelling theory is the research into mental health. Thomas Scheff adopts Becker's views on labelling theory and talks about how people are "labelled emotionally ill in order to explain certain rule-breaking behaviour that culture can't categorise". Wright and Pfohl recognise that Scheff is not worried about occasional functions of deviance, however the lasting and sporadic deviance that is often considered under mental condition. Individuals who are consequently labelled as 'mentally ill' often take up the behaviour they might personally expect of the stereotypical mental health patient as portrayed through the marketing. Scheff identifies that people will all screen symptoms of mental condition at some point in our lives, and "brands are mounted on those without vitality". Scheff argues those who become stereotypically psychologically sick, or at least work as such, are "rewarded by enterprising psychology experts". Empirical evidence of this can be within several studies by Scheff in to the procedure for mental hospital determination.

In undertaking his own research into the labelling theory, Edwin Schur modifies Becker's approach in Labelling Deviant Behavior, by shifting a few of the concentration to the deviant person. He promises that, "if people who are labelled deviant can coordinate and gain electric power within the modern culture, they'll be able to change societal views on what is or what is not considered deviant". Schur says that this "change in ability may come in the form of uprisings, social actions, and even civil strife, that could ultimately bring about the formation of a strong political group. "

Howard Becker has been criticised on much of his focus on many levels, and these criticisms must be explored before any evaluation of his contribution to criminological knowledge can be produced.

Becker himself examines some of the criticisms made of the theory in his publication "Labelling Theory Reconsidered". First of all, he addresses those people who have said it isn't a true theory. He highlights that somewhat than as an all-encompassing theory of deviance, labelling 'theory' was founded as "a way of considering a general section of human activity", and not, he says, "a theory, with all the achievements and obligations that pick the title, nor focused so exclusively on the work of labelling as some have thought".

He highlights that the concept of morality can be difficult in its research and interpretation. He contemplates on where the researcher's sympathies should lie and considers whether one should part with the 'outsider' or just ascertain criminal activity as intrinsically incorrect? He stresses the difficulties of the sociologist of this decision, recognising that the researcher, "whether taking either area, will be accused of going for a one-sided and distorted view. So we then ask how is it possible to see the situation from both factors concurrently" ? I concur that Becker is right in boosting this criticism, as it is slightly impossible to be completely un-bias on the foundation that no researcher is with the capacity of not carrying any sort of pre-conformed thoughts and opinions or take on society and will, without doubt, have moral ideals, right or wrongly. In Whose Part Are We On, Becker runs as far as to say that "the labelling theorist must part with the deviator, as it is up to the sociologists to treatment unfair situations".

Becker also highlights there is issues with secrecy. The deviant specific, in many cases, will commit deviant functions in secrecy and will not what their actions to become universally known, specially when those functions are unlawful. This poses difficulty in gaining a true insight into the world of the deviant person and therefore jeopardises the validity of the labelling theory. Becker's lay claim was found to be correct by Humphrey in his review 'Tearoom Trade'. In many cases, the individuals taking part in homosexual behaviour in the tearooms were wedded with children, and consequently, when later asked in a questionnaire about their views on homosexuality, very few admitted their own goes to to the tearooms. This notion of secrecy among deviants will undoubtedly cause problems for experts and their research.

It is also very hard for researchers to see the day-to-day lives of deviant individuals, in what exactly are perhaps highly dangerous places, as there are problems of infiltration and increasing the trust of what may be violent and dangerous people. In case the researcher is able to gain such gain access to, they then face the responsibilities of staying impartial in their observations, to keep to observe without becoming involved in criminal activity themselves, and even trying to prevent offences being committed. This is observed in Parker's "View from the Males", where he studied boys within an portion of Liverpool. Parker was only able to gain insight as he previously previously met the young boys he was studying at a centre for Liverpool's deprived children. He says, however, "EASILY was not young, hairy, boozy, eager to keep extended hours, accept permissive criteria, the liaison could not have worked". He also admits that his existence affected the behaviour and actions of the young boys. On events he averted them from committing crimes and even travelled as far as to help them if indeed they were found.

In his research and development of the labelling theory, Becker doesn't address how factors such as biology, hereditary results and personal responsibility can impact, if, deviant individuals behaviour. After this satisfied a barrage of criticism, he replied his critics in his 1973 model of his work. He published that while sociological researchers are dedicated to finding a knowledge about society, they can be "often too careful to look too closely". Becker observed ""I prefer to think about what we review as collective action. People react, as Mead and Blumer have made clearest, along. They do what they do with an eyeball on what others have done, are doing now, and could do in the foreseeable future. One tries to match his own type of action in to the activities of others, in the same way all of them likewise changes his own growing actions to what he recognizes and needs others to do". Francis Cullen thought Becker was overly generous along with his critics. He recognised that after 20 years, far from being supplanted, have been corrected and assimilated into an extended "structuring perspective". Becker's recommending that rather than simply criticise him for excluding these factors in his research, these sociologists should use those factors to help develop the labelling theory themselves.

What I really believe to be the best flaw in the labelling theory is the idea that "no functions are inherently criminal", they only become legal when contemporary society has deemed them as such. This seems to be suggesting that with no persons in electric power seeking to "satisfy two major passions: the justification of their job and the earning of esteem from the folks" by implementing laws, there would be no 'deviant'. So will this imply that simply because it couldn't be 'labelled' therefore, it wouldn't exist? Because something can't be specifically labelled therefore does not mean that it ceases to occur. I trust Becker's argument that people become deviant if they're 'expected' to become so by world, but I fail be of the same brain that this is the reason behind the majority of deviant behaviour. For me, the labelling of deviance employs the deviant act occurs.

The theory also remarks that for a unlawful to be effectively labelled, an audience must be present to give a a reaction to the crimes determined. So does indeed this imply that if a murder is dedicated and the killer avoids suspicion or being trapped, they aren't a criminal and will not think of themselves in such a way? It is possible that the killer will involve some notion of morals and what's conceived to be inherently right and wrong therefore of their own socialisation, and so could initialise self-labelling, however the theory clearly declares the labelling must come from an authorized.

In attempting to evaluate the contribution of Becker to the analysis of criminology and more specifically the sociology of deviance, it is important to note it depends on how the theory is looked at. If the theory is considered as "a theory, with all the current achievement and commitments that opt for the name" then its imperfections a wide range of. Yet, if we consider the theory, as Becker advises we do, as a mere way of looking at deviance, then the contribution could be reported to be significant. Becker, unlike earlier theorists, didn't only go through the after-effects of your deviant take action but considered the way one starts to land deviant. In his analysis of pot users, for example, he considers how one starts to smoke cigars. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Becker's method of the labelling theory, almost all, if not all, will use that judgment to then form their own ideas and approaches to the study of deviance, as is evident from the quantity of critique Becker has obtained. As a result, you can conclude that Becker's approach to the labelling theory goes on in its usefulness, and will continue to be to take action so long as deviant behaviour continues to exist.

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