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Moral Entrepreneurs: The Creation


MORAL ENTREPRENEURS: THE CREATION & ENFORCEMENT OF DEVIANT CATEGORIES Howard S. Becker Moral entrepreneurs moral entrepreneurs are people who seek to influence a ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Moral Entrepreneurs: The Creation

Moral Entrepreneurs The Creation Enforcement
of Deviant Categories
  • Howard S. Becker

Moral entrepreneurs
  • moral entrepreneurs are people who seek to
    influence a group to adopt or maintain a norm
  • they may create moral panics around perceived
    urgent problems, e.g.,
  • drinking alcohol or sexual psychopathy
  • moral entrepreneurs can be divided into
  • rule creators
  • rule enforcers

Eighteenth amendment
  • The 18th Amendment of the US Constitution
    (ratified in 1919), along with the Volstead Act,
    established Prohibition (of "intoxicating
    liquors, except those used for religious
    purposes) in the US.
  • Demand for liquor continued, with the following
  • criminalization of producers, suppliers,
    transporters and consumers
  • police, courts and prisons were overwhelmed with
    new cases
  • organized crime increased in power
  • corruption extended among law enforcement
  • The amendment was repealed in 1933 by
    ratification of the 21st Amendment, the only
    instance in US history of repeal of a
    constitutional amendment

Rule creators
  • Rule creators moral crusaders, fervent,
    righteous, often self-righteous
  • Mission is to promote their sense of morality -
    thereby defining and combating deviance - for the
    presumed good of others
  • Chief concern is the ends - persuasion of others
    - not the means by which persuasion is achieved
  • Successful moral crusades are generally dominated
    by those in the upper social strata of society
  • They must build public awareness of a problem,
    and have power, public support, and a clear and
    acceptable solution to the problem
  • ? tend to have strange bedfellows, e.g.,
  • overlap cooperation among Temperance,
    Abolitionist, Womens Rights, and anti-Child
    Labor movements in the late-19th, early 20th
  • alliance formation among conservative Christian
    activists and Feminists in recent campaigns
    against human trafficking

Rule enforcers
  • Successful crusades produce new sets of rules
    enforcement agents/agencies, thus
    institutionalizing the crusade
  • Rule enforcers, e.g., police, are compelled by
    two drives
  • the need to justify their own role
  • the need to win respect in interactions
  • They are in a bind if they show too much
    effectiveness one might say they are not needed,
    and if they show too little effectiveness one
    might say they are failing
  • Rule enforcers feel the need to enforce the rule
    because that is their job they are not really
    concerned with the content of the rule
  • As rules are changed, something that was once
    acceptable may now be punished and vice versa
  • ? Such officials tend to take a pessimistic view
    of human nature due to constant exposure to
    willful deviance

Selective enforcement
  • a good deal of enforcement activity is devoted
    not to the actual enforcement of rules, but to
    coercing respect from the people the enforcer
    deals with
  • people may be labeled deviant not due to breaking
    a rule but showing disrespect

Selective enforcement (contd)
  • Whether a person who commits a deviant act is in
    fact labeled a deviant depends on things besides
    his actual behavior
  • whether official feels pressure at the time to
    justify his/her position
  • whether respect is shown to enforcer
  • whether the fix is in
  • amateurs tend to be caught, convicted, and
    labeled deviant much more than professionals (who
    know the fixer)
  • whether the kind of act committed is high on
    enforcers priority list

Symbolic Crusade
  • From Joseph R. Gusfield Symbolic Crusade
    (Urbana-Champaign University of IlIinois Press,

In US, conflicts tend to be organized along
cultural lines
  • US lacked the class divisions conflict found in
  • ? relative consensus on fundamental economic
  • ? differences between ethnic groups, cultures,
    and religious organizations assume greater
  • "...agreement on fundamentals will permit almost
    every kind of social conflict, tension and
    difference to find political expression."
    (Benson, op. cit., p. 275)

Moral reform as a political social issue
  • Moral reforms are efforts by moral people to
    correct the behavior of the immoral people
  • Moral reforms a way cultural groups act to
    preserve, defend, or enhance the dominance and
    prestige of their own ways of life
  • Moral reform is a disinterested reform,
    divorced from any direct economic interests

The Temperance movement
  • In Temperance, (moral) abstainers sought to
    correct the behavior of (immoral) drinkers
  • Since drinking and nondrinking have been ways to
    identify the members of a subculture, drinking
    and abstinence became symbols of social status
  • Temperance was one way in which a declining
    social elite New England WASPs (White
    Anglo-Saxon Protestants) tried to retain its
    social power leadership
  • During the 1820's, the men who founded the
    Temperance movement sought to make Americans into
    a clean, sober, godly, and decorous people whose
    aspirations and style of living would reflect the
    moral leadership of New England Federalism

Temperance goes national
  • Starting in the1830s, abstinence becomes a part
    of public morality, a symbol of middle-class
    membership and a necessity for social mobility
  • Abstinence is highly symbolic, seen as
  • the industrious from the deadbeat
  • the steady worker from the unreliable drifter
  • the good credit risk from the bad gamble
  • the native American (i.e., US-born) from the

Assimilative vs coercive reform
  • Temperance featured two types of disinterested
  • assimilative reform seeks to assimilate drinkers
    (largely identified with the poor, the alien, and
    the downtrodden) into the social system, to
    follow the reformer's habits and lift selves to
    middle-class respect and income
  • coercive reform since the dominance of his
    culture and the social status of his group are
    denied, the coercive reformer turns to law and
    force as ways to affirm it

19th-century vs 20th-century America
  • Abstinence was in in the 19th century, out in
    the 20th
  • Local culture of small-town America is
    increasingly challenged by the rise of a
    nationalized culture and an industrial economy of
    mass organizations
  • In the shift from commercial to industrial
    society, values of self-control, impulse
    renunciation, discipline, and sobriety decline in
  • Interest in interpersonal relations and
    conspicuous consumption replaces interest in work
    and morality

  • The Eighteenth Amendment was the high point of
    the struggle to assert the public dominance of
    old middle-class values. It established the
    victory of Protestant over Catholic, rural over
    urban, tradition over modernity, the middle class
    over both the lower and the upper strata

Culture wars then now
  • There has been a decline in the social status of
    the old middle class and in the dominance of his
    values. This sense of anger at the loss of status
    and bitterness about lowered self-esteem pervades
    the entire Temperance movement today.
  • Temperance has been one of the classic issues on
    which divergent cultures have faced each other in
    America. Such issues of style have been
    significant because they have been ways through
    which groups have tried to handle the problems
    which have been important to them.
  • What about today? What issues are important to
    todays declining class?