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Howard Becker, Drug Use and the Sociology of Deviance

Outsiders, a sandwich book comprised of two previouslypublished articles on marijuana use and two on dance musicians, a two-chapter introduction, and a three-chapter conclusion (and, in the 1973 edition, the author’s reappraisal of labeling theory), has been, by far, Howard S. Becker’s most-read and most-cited work. It was remarkable and influential in several ways, including the fact that the author was a participant in the behavior he described and analyzed. But in his reflections on his own work, Becker expressed unease about being identified by this book, arguing that his writings in other areas are more emblematic of his contributions to sociology. Indeed, Becker even argues that, conceptually, the book wasn’t even about deviance as such, but occupations and the professions. The fact remains, authors do not render the most authoritative judgment about their work-their readers and commentators do.


Erich Goode

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