Free «Howard Becker» Essay

Howard Becker

Giddens and Sutton (2013) define sociology as the study of people's way of life including their behaviors, culture, and social norms. The study of sociology is extensive since it involves analyzing the life of an individual in the society in all dimensions up to researching the nation-wide social issues. Sociology studies how human social relationships are integrated with different institutions. In sociology, there are many theories that explain why people behave in a particular way. Some sociological theories provide an analysis of the current features of the social world; they predict the future according to the findings. Sociological theories give the basic explanations on how different facts relate in the society. Howard Becker is one of the sociological theorists that have significantly contributed to the development of the deviant and labeling theories. This paper analyzes the role of Howard Becker in sociology in the light of the two theories.

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Howard Becker is an American sociologist known for his contributions to the field of sociology. He was the one to develop the labeling and deviant theories, as well as introduce sociology art and music. The sociologist has also played a crucial role in updating various methodologies and writing styles in sociology. Becker wrote his first book on the labeling and deviance theories in 1963. In this book, he argues that an action is bad not because of its nature or outcomes but because people consider it as such. To come up with this argument, Becker conducted a research on the use of marijuana by the dance musicians. He discovered that people who used the drug were considered deviants. Even though, the drug abusers were not intrinsically deviant, the society termed them as such. Becker’s contribution to the sociological art was also immense; he published several works defining sociological art as the creation of comprehensive actions.

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My personal view of sociology is based on the deviant and labeling theories developed by Howard Becker. Deviant theory studies the methodology, through which various activities, convictions, or conditions become to be considered immoral by the others. Deviance is a negative value; it reveals the social response to certain phenomenon. In such a manner, the examples of deviant activities are robbery and murder (Garner & Hancock, 2014). On the other hand, different law violations usually receive no social response and cannot be viewed as deviant; for instance, violating a copyright by downloading music from the web. Some common beliefs and traditions provoke a negative response in the society. For example, a particular society can consider homosexuality and racism immoral while others do not. In a similar manner, people suffering from various abnormal conditions are treated differently in different societies. There are communities where a person with dwarfism or albinism is seen as a curse; nevertheless, in other communities, he/she is respected and treated decently.

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Three broad sociological conceptions namely structural functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interact describe the deviant theory. Symbolic interaction considers the mode of communication and its influence on the interactions of two individuals. An individual is inseparable from the society, because the two have been created through societal interaction. Secondly, the one defines the other; a society is defined by its members while the individual is defined by the society. Through symbolic interactions, human beings can share and define what is to be considered deviant and what not. The way people interact influences their perception of what is wrong and what is right. People usually focus on what the other person thinks about the action and listen to his/her judgments. If the community accepts such judgment, it becomes to be considered moral by everyone. Nevertheless, the judgment may vary in different communities (Garner & Hancock, 2014).

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The conflict theory, in turn, states that a society lives in constant conflict. To achieve some goals such as the revolution or political power, social conflicts are inevitable. People enter into a conflict with each other in order to win power and influence in the community. They also confront with the traditional norms and institutions of the respective community. In such a manner, almost every community considers corruption to be illegal and go against its norms. However, people usually bribe others to get what they want; consequently, some members of the group are hurt, and the conflict comes in.

Structural functionalism considers society a structure integrated by various institutions. Structural functionalism emphasizes the importance of social structures such as school, church, and workplace in the human interactions. For people to interact, there must be structures and institutions that bring them together. For instance, when people interact in the church; religion is the institution while a church is a place where these people meet and interact.

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Howard Becker and Frank Tannenbaum have come up with the labeling theory, which is a central conception of the typical interactionism. Labeling is the process, in which people respond to a certain behavior and give judgment. They base their ideas on the personal experience that they have gained over the years. Therefore, labeling suggests that a deviance is caused by the society that terms certain behavior immoral. Deviance is not the nature of the wrong deed, but rather the reaction by others to a wrongdoer. The deviant is the person to whom the label has been effectively connected; therefore, deviant conduct is a conduct labeled by the society as such.

However, the society is not always right in what it labels wrong. Some societies term certain activities as wrong while international law considers them right. People might not understand the reason as to why a person behaves in a certain way; such situation leads to the misinterpretation of behavior. In such a case, the society may provide a wrong label (Garner & Hancock, 2014).

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