The American Sociologist

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 90-104

First online:

Round up the usual suspects: Crime, deviance, and the limits of constructionism

  • Erich GoodeAffiliated withthe department of sociology, State University of New York

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In the 1960s and early 1970s, the sociological study of deviance underwent a sharp break in orientation; many observers in the field began to shift their focus away from an examination of etiology to the study of social control. Examining the social construction of deviance and crime to the exclusion of crucial and unavoidable material features that cannot be defined away lead to certain conclusions that could not be sustained and were vulnerable to successful challenge from later approaches. The lives and work of Frank Tannenbaum, Jack Henry Abbott, and Alvin Gouldner, as well as the work of other labelists and Marxists, offer testimony to the limits of constructionism in the sociological study of deviance and crime.