Notes on Becker H  (1963) Outsiders, New York: Free Press

Chapter 8 Moral Entrepreneurs

These people are rule creators, such as crusading reformers of different persuasions, often with humanitarian intents. There is often a class dimension, since these people are paternalist towards the lower orders, and often allied with other forces, such as bosses wanting a moral workforce or various experts like lawyers or psychiatrists. An atmosphere of moral panic helps the entrepreneurs to operate. There are often unintended consequences [ contradictions?] from their allied interests though, especially wherever ideals become prioritised as law. 

Moral crusaders have a career: one consequence of any success is that they end their role as moral crusader. Alternatively, they or their movement may become professionalised. Processes like goal displacement can also occur when membership has to be retained  [goal displacement can involve an organisation in attempting just to run itself successfully, with its original purpose forgotten - it classically affects 'moral' organisations like churches or universities]. 

There are also rule enforcers, who follow on from a successful crusade and help to institutionalise it --'The final outcome of the moral crusade is a police force' (page 156). Some special problems are revealed best by looking at the work of the police -- for example, they may be morally indifferent themselves to the rule, but are engaged to enforce it. This can involve them in working on accepting and justifying their job. They also face the paradox of having to appear successful, but having to keep themselves in constant demand. They tend to be sceptical about the possibilities of reform, because of their daily associations with those who break the rules [ who infect them, with their cynicism], yet they secretly want offenders to persist in order to keep themselves in a job. A policeman often develops professional commitment rather than the naive moral fervour of the moral crusader.

Respect becomes a very important motive for the enforcers, and maintaining it lies behind many arrests and labellings -- and practices, as when it becomes OK to use violence if offenders show you no respect  (page 158), or to persist with prosecuting minor offences if offenders are seen to challenge your competence or authority. A police force needs to be given lots of discretion, because its resources are usually slender, but this can often lead to unfortunate compromises with things like evidence. Some American cities have professional  'fixers' [lawyer's?] to assist the police in deciding how to use their discretionary power -- this often has unfortunate consequences for amateurs who lack these resources. Alternatively, private priorities guide discretionary power -- and again this is very different from the crusader  [It seems to me that Merton's category of ritualism -- appearing to go through the motions while avoiding very difficult decisions -- offers another possibility for the professional -- see file]. 

Overall then, categories like moral entrepreneurs and enforcers reveal the importance of the social or collective nature of morality and moral panics: these are not simply driven by morality or theology.

Chapter 10 Labelling Theory Re-considered

The real interest is in interaction or processes rather than just 'labelling'. Deviance is seen as a general social activity -- labelling theory was never attempting to be aetiological about deviancy  [that is, to develop a theory to explain its occurrence], but to include deviancy as a part of general social activity. Labelling was never meant to be the sole explanation of deviancy, although it does explain deviant careers. Whether labelling takes place, and if so under what conditions, is an empirical matter. Labelling is an important and neglected dimension, to be seen in the context of interaction. 

Deviancy is a collective act, as in symbolic interactionism generally: it involves adjustment to the actions of others, although not necessarily a peaceful adjustment, and not only in face-to-face interaction. Deviancy involves collectivities, such as those needed to create moral activities [ as above]. Deviancy also requires interaction, because there is a lot of disagreement about what actually is a deviant act -- this is not a technical matter, but a theoretical one. The disagreement arises because deviance is really two processes, seen from the different points of view of the deviants and the officials involved. To study action from the point of view of the deviant makes sense from the perspective of understanding social action in general, rather than deploying causal explanations of crime -- deviant acts and social judgements about them are logically interdependent. 

What of  'secret deviance', which occurs before any collective response? This is often self defined as deviancy in many cases, in anticipation of becoming a potential labellee according to collectively agreed definitions  [we are quite close to Matza's view here that delinquents share knowledge of these collectively agreed definitions, and can even apply them, in this case to themselves]. 

Power is certainly very important, and has not been ignored  (page 188). For example, it is often possible for the powerful to make rules ex posto facto  [after the event]. 

A social network surrounds deviancy, and the collective is always involved somewhere. Deviancy therefore has to be demystified. Collective activity has led to it being seen in terms of abstract nouns [Becker is almost using a term like reification here], and theories being based on these, rather than on actual experience. This has led to seeing deviancy as a mysterious force requiring special explanations, but deviants really act for the same reasons that we do. In fact, deviancy operates in collective networks, many of  which are non-deviant [Matza again].

Rules do not emanate from  'society' but from powerful groups, who also produce official statistics. We need alternative data, including the documents used by the powerful to develop their views. We also need close observations rather than abstractions. 

What of the moral problems involved? There are three main areas of discussion: 

(a) Is interaction subversive? It raises questions about conventional morality, takes the side of the underdog, and refuses the 'thing-like' status of convention. It also ignores the general social or universal qualities of deviant acts, but only because it also stresses the specificity of societal reactions. Some groups of course wish to be immune from criticism -- like the police. 
(b) Is interactionism pro-establishment? It fails to criticise institutions, while insisting that all parties must be open to criticism. It cannot be value-free -- although this means it is interested in complexity rather than simple commitments. It assumes that the real variables are not 'social forces' but agreed definitions  [as is consistent with symbolic interactionism]. 
(c) Criticisms from  'left-field'-- especially those of Gouldner [see his critique of interactionism in The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology, London: Heinemann 1971 -- brief resume here]. Readers of this series will find similar critiques in gramscian work such as those in Policing the Crisis]. Interactionist theories certainly do study the power to define people, and this could be used to it see how groups  'establish hegemony' (page 204). The power to label is an important aspect of power in modern States. It is true that most research has focused on the immediate participants, like actual policemen or teachers, but this focus is not exclusive or inevitable, and anyway it is critical of higher authority: it does expose the authorities and their cover-ups  [but this is still a moral criticism? See the British project to develop marxist criminology for a discussion] 
In conclusion, labelling theory offers a full frank analysis, rather than operating with mysterious forces producing  'deviancy' as an objective category. It does illustrate the importance of the power to define. It is a radical enterprise, for example in exposing the role of moral entrepreneurs posing as the voice of society -- it relativises official morals. It is intended to make links with critical work in other spheres such as education, and the military.