The American Sociologist

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 51–60

Defining Deviance: John Kitsuse’s Modest Agenda


DOI: 10.1007/s12108-008-9058-6

Cite this article as:
Holstein, J.A. Am Soc (2009) 40: 51. doi:10.1007/s12108-008-9058-6


This article highlights and appreciates an often overlooked aspect of John Kitsuse’s work in the sociology of deviance. Years before he invented a new sociology of social problems, Kitsuse crafted theoretical and empirical statements that helped establish the “labeling” or “societal reaction” definition of, and perspective on, deviance. Kitsuse’s work was a key in the movement to forge labeling theory’s distinctively radical edge. At the same time that he pioneered new sociological territory, Kitsuse also resisted the conceptual slippage that plagued so many others working on the frontier.


DevianceLabeling theorySocial controlSocial problemsSocietal reactionSociological theory

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social and Cultural SciencesMarquette UniversityMilwaukeeUSA