Taylor, I and Walton, P. (1970) 'Values in deviancy theory and society', The British Journal of Sociology, XXI (4): 362 - 74.
[A deliciously dated account of the struggles in the 1970s centred upon deviancy theory and criminology. The more prominent aspects of the debate turned on whether 'positivist' or 'interactionist'were more appropriate. The 'fact/value' distinction is the peg on which this argument is hung. Taylor and Walton want to criticise both perspectives and sketch out the marxist alternative that was to be their main contribution.]
Sociologists of deviance have been 'forced, by the logic of their concerns' (362) to reconsider the fact/value question:
1. Some sociological findings or 'facts' are incorporated into policy and some are ignored -- early work on football hooliganism as a social problem is an example of the latter. It seems that politicians are able to define 'ends, means and "facts"' (363).
2. This 'irrationality' of political processes has deeper consequences. The term 'values' as opposed to the reality of 'facts' implies a strict division between means and ends. However, a strictly rational account of possible 'facts' cannot be confined to providing politicians with work on the means of bringing about social change alone. Sociologists should also be prepared to demonstrate that the goals or ends of powerful groups are also 'based on prejudice' (363). The example taken here is punitive policy towards the consumption of illegal drugs, especially the continued criminalisation of cannabis. Powerful groups cannot justify their ends by appealing to common public support for punitive policies, since public support can also be based on 'stereotypical representations which can give rise to moral panics having little basis in fact' (364).
3. The common experience for deviancy researchers of having their research results ignored may be responsible for their own theoretical deviancy [a break with positivism and facts/values] . In particular 'the social structure does not produce this kind of role differentiation and performance' (364) -- in other words, facts and values are not carefully separated in the actual social world, and nor are means and ends.
4. The classically positivistic notion that it will be possible to find courses for events ignores the actual social practice of having to '[choose] the most rational way of achieving specified ends' (365). Actual decisions may not refer to the facts at all, and some may be taken despite the facts.
5. This indicates that the notion of what is rational is also affected by social structure, the 'total purposes and beliefs of particular social groups' (365). As a result, the rationality of a sociological enquiry is usually 'defined operationally as the optimum balance between all these factors' (366) [not only the purposes and beliefs of other groups, but any contradictory purposes and beliefs held by specific groups]. Economists can reduce all this to money terms, but there is no such reduction possible for sociologists.
Taylor and Walton then want to comment on the debate between Becker and Gouldner on the problems of the interactionist approach.
Becker's option is to assume that deviancy reflects a hierarchical set of values, based on different levels of power, and then to deliberately opt for subordinate definitions for sociological study. This can sometimes expose official definitions as a 'lie' (367). They can be no sociological study which avoids bias, and it will be impossible to consider all viewpoints. Becker's solution is to make it clear that sociological studies are limited. However, this is too relativist for Taylor and Walton: 'a sociology dedicated merely to the accurate reproduction of a given actor's viewpoint not only forgoes causal analysis but denies that actors' definitions are refracted through prisms of truth and falsehood' (368).
Gouldner's critique of Becker accuses him of a '"sentimental attachment to the underdog"' (368), but any partial sociology would risk this criticism. However, Gouldner argues that Becker ends with a patronising view of deviants ['zoo keeping'], and that interactionism does not proceed to analyse social structures. Taylor and Walton agreed that the problem is to analyse 'the totality of social reality' (369), via a general theory explaining have social problems are generated by social structures. Only such a general theory would separate sociology from the views of ordinary participants, and thus justify a claim to objectivity.
Gouldner then considers three possible types of objectivity --'personal authenticity, normative objectification, and transpersonal replicability' (370). The second one emphasizes the sociologist's moral commitments and values -- but Taylor and Walton argued that is either throws us back on to personal subjectivity, or implies some impossible collective agreement among sociologists as a substitute for universal agreement. 'Personal authenticity'seems to refer to a sociologist's need to admit mistakes and limits, but there seem to be no methodological implications or recommendations. 'Transpersonal replicability' involves codified research procedures, rules and routines to govern research, but this again is simply an operational definition. Results may be replicable but still not true. The fact/value distinction in particular turns on agreement on particular methodological procedures.
Taylor and Walton agree that of course there is a difference between facts and values, at least at the level of statements [saying someone is a deviant on the one hand, compared to saying someone ought to be a deviant on the other]. However, the problem arises with deviance in that some actors define others as deviant, which clearly involves power and social structure. It is not simply that deviants are being irrational, since some deviant behaviour may make sense given a structural position.
The findings of sociologists of deviance, regardless of the methods pursued, are immediately political. In particular, even the best accounts 'give the powerful the opportunity of altering the odds in favour of their conception of normative reality being realised' (372). Thus the sociology of deviance offers a challenge to conceptions of facts and values held in other areas of sociology. It is not just a matter of taking sides, but recognising that no explanation can be neutral in its consequences.
Gouldner still operate with the concept of truth, which is connected with the notion of wholeness and completeness. But most sociologists can claim wholeness in the current social structure, not until the 'antagonisms located in the social structure itself' also disappear (372) [definite hints of Lukacs here?]. Until then, deviancy theory will be taken as offering accounts of the conditions that produce deviants. In one sense, such accounts imply no choice for the actors involved, and therefore no need for a separate sphere of values. However, in policy terms, such accounts are used to attempt to persuade deviants to reform -- the fact/value distinction is implied.
Overall, sociologists need to examine 'the extent to which deviant values are inextricably linked with social structure' (373). Only then can the balance be established between 'our conception of the way in which men define the world and the way the world actually is' (373).