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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Thursday, 19 January 2017

"Outsiders" by Howard S Becker

This sociological study of outsiders is by an ex-American jazz musician and includes fascinating portraits of 'marihuana' users (parts were written in the early 1950s) and jazz musicians.

The fact that the book is written when it was means that the chapters on drug taking are devoted to 'marihuana' which is obviously regarded as really rather naughty. Its study of 'dance musicians' is about musicians who want to play 'jazz'.  It also brands homosexuals as deviants:  "many homosexuals are able to keep their deviance secret from their nondeviant associates" (p 21); explaining how difficult it is for them to keep jobs. It is difficult nowadays even to understand how anyone can refer to homosexuality as deviance let alone a sociologist especially without putting the word 'deviance' into quotation marks. But it does make this book a rather fascinating unintended social history.

"What laymen want to know about deviants is: why do they do it? How can we account for this rule-breaking? What is there about them that leads them to do forbidden things?" (p 3)

"different groups judge different things to be deviant." (p 4)
Disease analogy (p 5)
Some forbidden acts are tolerated so long as they are not done openly (p 11)

Deviant 'normalises' behaviour thus:

  • Not my fault: tossed by the winds: he is at the mercy of circumstances: it was society made me do it (p 28)
  • Not wrong if no one hurt (p 28)
  • Not wrong if you are righting a wrong eg beating up other deviants (p 29)
  • Not wrong if your condemners are hypocrites (p 29)


"Members of service occupations characteristically consider the client unable to judge the proper worth of the service." (p 82)

"Musicians feel that the only music worth playing is what they call 'jazz', a term which can partially be defined as that music which is produced without references to the demands of outsiders. Yet they must endure unceasing interference with their playing by outsiders and audience ... In order to achieve success he finds it necessary to 'go commercial', that is, play in accord with the wishes of nonmusicians for whom he works; in doing so he sacrifices the respect of other musicians and thus, in most cases, his self-respect." (p 83)

"Only musicians are sensitive and unconventional enough to give real sexual satisfaction to a woman." (p 86)

"Musicians live an exotic life, like in a jungle or something. They start out, they're just ordinary kids from small towns - but once they get into that life they change. It's like a jungle, except that their jungle is a hot, crowded bus. You live that kind of life long enough, you just get to be completely different." (p 86)

Well written by an ex musician and really interesting about jazz. January 2017; 208 pages

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