From a student at the University of Chicago to one of the most well-respected sociology professors in the world, Howard Becker has made an enormous contribution to the symbolic interactionist tradition. His early work drew upon his experiences of performing as a jazz pianist, where he observed the patterns of negotiated order that were followed by musicians. This led on to his labelling theory of deviance, presented in his most influential book, Outsiders (1963). Here it was argued that there are no inherently deviant individuals or acts but rather that ‘social groups create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance’. This focus on the way identities are formed in interaction is also reflected in his studies of Art Worlds (1982) and student culture (Making the Grade, with Blanche Geer and Everett C. Hughes, 1968, reprinted with a new introduction 1995). Becker has also debunked some of the myths about academic writing (Writing for Social Scientists, 1986) and continues to produce delightfully entertaining and informative work.
http://home.earthlink.net/~hsbecker/ Howard Becker's home page, containing some recent papers and providing the opportunity to communicate with him.
Subjects: Social sciences