The American Sociologist

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 90–104 | Cite as

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

  • Erich Goode


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.


Social Control Deviant Behavior Literary Figure Solitary Confinement Usual Suspect 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abbott, Jack Henry. 1981.In the Belly of the Beast: Letters From Prison. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  2. Akers, Ronald L. 1985.Deviant Behavior: A Social Learning Approach (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  3. Aurbach, Herbert A., et al. 1976. “SSSP as the Organization of a Social Movement: Comments and Suggestions.”Social Problems, 24(1):37–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baudrillard, Jean. 1991. “The Reality Gulf.”The Guardian, January 11:25.Google Scholar
  5. Becker, Howard S. 1963.Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  6. Becker, Howard S. 1967. “Whose Side Are We On?”Social Problems, 14(3):239–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Best, Joel. 1993. “But Seriously Folks: The Limitations of the Strict Constructionist Interpretation of Social Problems.” In Gale Miller and James A. Holstein, eds.,Constructionist Controversies: Issues in Social Problems Theory. New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 109–127.Google Scholar
  8. Chambliss, William J. 1973. The Saints and the Roughnecks.”Society, 11(Dec.):24–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Delpar, Helen. 1988. “Frank Tannenbaum, 1914–1933.”The Americas: A Quarterly Review of Inter-American Cultural History, 45(2):153–171.Google Scholar
  10. Downes, David, and Paul Rock. 1988.Understanding Deviance: A Guide to the Sociology of Crime and Rule Breaking (2nd ed.). Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  11. Erikson, Kai T. 1964. “Notes on the Sociology of Deviance.” In Howard S. Becker, ed.,The Other Side. New York: Free Press, 9–21.Google Scholar
  12. Farber, M.A. 1981a. “Convict-author Known by Mailer is Being Sought in Fatal Stabbing.”The New York Times, July 20:B3.Google Scholar
  13. Farber, M.A. 1981b. “Killing Clouds Ex-convict Writer’The New York Times, July 26:1, 26.Google Scholar
  14. Franklin, H. Bruce. 1986.Prison Literature in America: The Victim as Criminal and Artist (expanded ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Gibbs, Jack P. 1996. “Conceptions of Deviant Behavior: The Old and the New.”Pacific Sociological Review, 9(1):9–14.Google Scholar
  16. Goffman, Erving. 1961.Asylums. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday-Anchor.Google Scholar
  17. Gouldner, Alvin W. 1968. “The Sociologist as Partisan: Sociology and the Welfare State.”The American Sociologist, 3(2):103–116.Google Scholar
  18. Gouldner, Alvin W. 1970.The Coming Crisis of American Sociology. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  19. Hamblin, Robert L. 1989–90. “Sociology and a Developing Administrative Tradition at Washington University: 1957–1971.”The American Sociologist, 20(4):324–329.Google Scholar
  20. Holman, John E., and James F. Quinn. 1992.Criminology: Applying Theory. St. Paul, Minn.: West.Google Scholar
  21. Humphreys, Laud. 1970.Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  22. Jeffery, C. Ray. 1990.Criminology: An Interdisciplinary Approach. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  23. Kakutani, Michiko. 1981. “The Strange Case of the Writer and the Criminal.”The New York Times Book Review, September 20:1, 36, 39.Google Scholar
  24. Lemert, Edwin M. 1951.Social Pathology: A Systematic Approach to the Theory of Sociopathic Behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  25. Leonard, Eileen B. 1982.Women, Crime, and Society. A Critique of Criminological Theory. New York: Longman.Google Scholar
  26. Liazos, Alexander. 1972. “The Poverty of the Sociology of Deviance: Nuts, Sluts, and Preverts.”Social Problems, 20(1):103–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mailer, Norman. 1959. “The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster.” InAdvertisements for Myself, New York: G.P. Putnam, 337–358.Google Scholar
  28. Mailer, Norman. 1981. “Introduction.” InIn the Belly of the Beast: Letters from Prison, Jack Henry Abbott. New York: Random House, ix-xvi.Google Scholar
  29. Mannle, Henry W., and J. David Hirschel. 1988.Fundamentals of Criminology (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  30. Manso, Peter. 1985.Mailer: His Life and Times. New York: Viking.Google Scholar
  31. Matza, David. 1969.Becoming Deviant. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  32. Montgomery, Paul L. 1981. “Convict-author Sought in Slaying in New York is Seized in Louisiana.”The New York Times, September 24:A1, D27.Google Scholar
  33. Nettler, Gwynn. 1974. “On Telling Who’s Crazy.”American Sociological Review, 39(6):893–894.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Nettler, Gwynn. 1984.Explaining Crime (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  35. Pittman, David J., and Dierdre Boden. 1989–90. “Sociology at Washington University in St. Louis: History and Reflections, 1906–1989.”The American Sociologist, 20(4):305–321.Google Scholar
  36. Quinney, Richard. 1979.Criminology (2nd ed.). Boston: Little, Brown.Google Scholar
  37. Quinney, Richard. 1980.Class, State, and Crime (2nd ed.). New York: Longman.Google Scholar
  38. Rollyson, Carl. 1991.The Lives of Norman Mailer: A Biography. New York: Paragon House.Google Scholar
  39. Ross, Stanley R. 1970. Obituary, Frank Tannenbaum.Hispanic-American Historical Review, 50(2):345–348.Google Scholar
  40. Scheff, Thomas J. 1966.Being Mentally Ill: A Sociological Theory. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  41. Sheffield, Paul Ray. 1990. “Slitting Open the Belly of the Beast.”The Threepenny Review, Winter:13–15.Google Scholar
  42. Siegel, Larry J. 1992.Criminology. St. Paul, Minn.: West.Google Scholar
  43. Smart, Carol. 1976.Women, Crime and Criminology: A Feminist Critique. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  44. Tannenbaum, Frank. 1938.Crime and the Community. New York: Ginn.Google Scholar
  45. Taylor, Ian, Paul Walton, and Jock Young. 1973.The New Criminology: For a Social Theory of Deviance. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  46. Wellford, Charles. 1975. “Labelling Theory and Criminology: An Assessment.”Social Problems, 22(3):332–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Woolgar, Steve, and Dorothy Pawluch. 1985. “Ontological Gerrymandering: The Anatomy of Social Problems Explanations.”Social Problems, 32(3):214–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erich Goode
    • 1
  1. 1.the department of sociologyState University of New YorkStony Brook

Personalised recommendations