Becker, Howard S. Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance. New York: The Free Press,

 

Becker, Howard S. Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance. New York: The Free Press,
1973.

Although this book is mainly about drug users, pot heads, and musicians, and the ways in which
these people behave, this is one of the few books on deviance which spells out the role of the
agent of interpretation. Given labeling theory just who are the labelers? What is their job and
how do they accomplish whatever it is that they are doing?

Most particularly, Becker understands the role of the whistle blower and the rule enforcer. In
science, the rule enforcer, the significant other, is the historian, philosopher and sociologist of
science who play the part of rule interpreters. Scientists, too, must play the part of rule enforcer
and so they should understand that role. "Enforcers, then, responding to the pressures of their
own work situation, enforce rules and create outsiders in a selective way. Whether a person who
commits a deviant act is in fact labeled a deviant depends on many things extraneous to his actual
behavior: whether the enforcement official feels at this time he must make some show of doing
his job in order to justify his position, whether the misbehavior shows proper deference to the
enforcer, whether the ‘fix' has been put in, and where the kind of act he has committed stands on
the enforcer's list of priorities." (p. 161) The point to emphasize is that enforcement is not the
result of an act but is the work of the enforcer. One must ask of the enforcer, "What is in
enforcement for you?"

"The professional enforcer's lack of fervor and routine approach in dealing with evil may get him
into trouble with the rule creator. The rule creator, as has been said, is concerned with the content
of the rules that interest him. He sees them as the means by which evil can be stamped out. He
does not understand the enforcer's long-range approach to the same problems and cannot see
why all the evil that is apparent cannot be stamped out all at once." (pp. 161-162)

To understand why some scientists get chosen as cheats while others, who pretty much do the
same things, get chosen as heroes, one has to ask the historians, philosophers and sociologists
who have been creating heroes and villains. Cheating is not what gets one into trouble; being
selected as a "model" of villainy is what does.