Sociology Index

Howard Saul Becker

Among distinguished sociologists, Howard Saul Becker is a contemporary representative of the tradition of the Chicago School. Howard Saul Becker made major contributions to the sociology of deviant behavior, sociology of art, and sociology of music. Howard Saul Becker's 1963 book Outsiders is credited as one of the first books on labeling theory and its application to studies of deviance. Howard Saul Becker explored the theory in which deviance is simply a social construction used to persuade the public to fear and criminalized certain groups.

Outsiders outlines Becker's theories of deviance through two deviant groups; marijuana users and dance musicians. In the book, Howard Saul Becker defines deviance as "not a quality of a bad person but the result of someone defining someone’s activity as bad."

Howard Saul Becker is linked to symbolic interactionism and social constructionism, although he does not align himself with either method. Becker was a graduate of the University of Chicago, Becker is considered part of the second Chicago School of Sociology, which also includes Erving Goffman and Anselm Strauss. He also wrote Sociological Work, Method and Substance (1970).

Howard Saul Becker's works include occupational socialization in Boys in White (1961), investigation of deviant subculture and careers in Outsiders (1963), the study of youth culture and higher education in Making the Grade (1968) and Campus Power Struggle (1970). 

Howard S. (1963). Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance. New York. Macmillan. Howard Saul Becker explains: "...social groups create deviance by making rules whose infraction creates deviance, and by applying those roles to particular people and labeling them as outsiders. From this point of view, deviance is not a quality of the act the person commits, but rather a consequence of the application by other of rules and sanctions to an 'offender.' The deviant is one to whom that label has been successfully applied; deviant behavior is behavior that people so label."