Group Title: nonprofessional property offender
Title: The nonprofessional property offender
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Title: The nonprofessional property offender a study in phenomenological sociology
Physical Description: xii, 275 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Meisenhelder, Thomas Matthew, 1946-
Publication Date: 1975
Copyright Date: 1975
Subject: Crime   ( lcsh )
Criminal psychology   ( lcsh )
Criminals   ( lcsh )
Sociology thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Sociology -- UF   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis--University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 262-274.
Statement of Responsibility: by Thomas N. Meisenhelder.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00098934
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000195125
oclc - 03652820
notis - AAW1796


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Thomas M. leisenh2e der




To Trixie


First things first: Due to the whims of academic

bureaucracy, there is one important name missing from the

signature pages at the end of this dissertation, Professor

Charles Robbins. The intellectual and personal debts that

I owe to this individual are truly significant. Therefore,

I feel it is appropriate to open these acknowledgments with

that missingname. Professor Robbins has been one of the

major figures in my graduate education. Through his own

work and his assistance to me, he has provided the type of

interdisciplinary learning that initially motivated me to

enroll in a graduate program. He has also shown me that one

does not have to be satisfied with empty images of profes-

sionalism and public scholarship. If I have a role model,

it is Chuck. I wish here to formally thank him for every-

thing that he has done for me.

There is one other person to %whom I am equally and

similarly indebted, Dr. Charles Frazier. Professor Frazier

has consistently demonstrated to me the meaning of sociologi-

cal scholarship and critical thinking. He is a hard task-

master, but he is also a meaningful friend. To this Chuck

I owe my introduction to, and a great deal of my under-

standing of, the sociology of deviant behavior. I am

honored by both his friendship and his tutelage, and with

Chuck these two relationships go hand-in-hand. Of special

import to my personal development has been Chuck's solid

commitment to doing sociology as he feels it is best accom-

plished in order to gain a radical understanding of social

action. I shall with pride refer to myself as one of

Frazier's students. I hope to be able to do this title


To Dr. Joseph Vandiver, I am grateful for his toler-

ance of a graduate student whose thinking is far distant from

that of his own. Dr. Vandiver's ability to allow me to

travel my own path through sociology is a clear example of

the strength of his personal commitment to the discipline:

Van's friendly adivce and personal kindness have greatly

eased the institutionalized burdens of graduate school. As

every graduate student in sociology comes to appreciate, Van

is a friend through it all. I wish to thank him for being

a truly kind and concerned person.

Dr. Mary Anna Baden and Dr. E. Wilbur Bock also

served on my doctoral committee, and I wish to acknowledge

their assistance. They were most helpful whenever I asked

for their time and effort. Dr. Bock introduced me to

sociological theory and I am grateful for his instruction

in that area. Mary Anna read the manuscript of this dis-

sertation and her interest in my work has been both sincere

and honest. Dr. Felix Berardo came to my assistance in a

time of need, and I wish to thank him for his aid. Dr. Hal

Lewis of the College of Education has served on both my MA

and PhD committees as the "outside" member. In Norman

Hall, Dr. Lewis is considered indispensable; now I know why.

I also wish to express my appreciation to Dr. Barry Guinagh

of the College of Education for serving on my doctoral com-


Two other unrecognized "outside" committee members

must be thanked for their kindness to me, Ms. Lynn Frazier

and Ms. Lynn Robbins. They have both allowed me to feel

like a personal friend rather than merely another graduate

student. I also owe a great debt to Dr. David Monsees, the

chairman of my Master of Arts committee. He is a close

personal friend and an important teacher. Early in my

graduate education, David directed my interests and con-

vinced me to continue past the MA level. I thank him for

his interest in me.

How can I express appropriate gratitude to my

family? Their contribution to my development is the most

significant of all. My parents taught me to love to read;

that is a gift that can never by repaid. My brother showed

me the importance of philosophical introspection, and that

too can never be repaid. My lover, friend, and teacher

Susan deserves more mention than anyone. She has taught

me more about life and thought than any person that I know.

All my work is in effect dedicated to her.

Additionally, I owe thanks to Dr. Ray Worley of the

Division of Corrections of the State of Florida for grant-

ing me admission to the Lake Butler Reception and Medical

Center in order to conduct my research for this disserta-

tion. At Lake Butler, I was assisted by Superintendent

James Godwin and Mr. T.J. Cunningham. I would also like to

thank Ms. Kitty Hinton and Ms. Nancie Lehman for their kind-

ness in typing this dissertation.

Last and surely not least I wish to thank my re-

spondents. I do so with a quote from the poet Robert Frost


1 can't help owning the great relief it would be
To put these people at one stroke out of their pain.

And the next day as I come back into the sane,
I wonder how I should like you to come to me
And offer to put me gently out of my pain.

Still, above all this, I am alone responsible for

both my achievements and my failures.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. . . . . . . . . . iii

LIST OF FIGURES. ... . . . . . . . . ix

ABSTRACT . . ... . . . . . . . . x

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION. .. .... . . . . . 1

The Data . . . . . . . 3
The Method of Analysis . . . . 3
The Organization of the Dissertation. .. 4
Summary .. . . . . . . 6


Introduction . . . . . . 7
Deterministic Criminology and Sociology 9
Overview. . . . . . . . .. 23
Voluntaristic Criminology and Sociology 24
Overview. . . . . . . .. . 43
Career Development in Criminological
Theory. . . ... . . . . . 44

ANALYSIS . . . . . .. . . 47

Phenomenological Sociology. . . .. 47
Analytical Stages . . . . . 50
Data Collection and Field Procedures. 52
Phenomenological Analysis and Data
Interpretation. . . . . . ... 66
Summary . . . . . ... . . 75


Introduction . . . . . . 77
Entry into a Criminal Career. . . . 82
Continuation: Initial Considerations 94



Introduction ...... ... . .. 109
The Prison World. .. . .. . . 1ll
Summary . . . . .. . .. 134


Introduction . . . . . . 138
The Reentry Situation: Going Home?. . 138
Becoming a Semiprofessional .... ... 148
Summary . . . . . . . . 162


Introduction .. . . . . . 164
Attempts at Exiting . . . . . 166
Summary . . . . . . . . 202


Descriptive Findings .. . . ... 205
Theoretical Findings. . . . . 210
Implications ... . . . . . 221
Epilogue . . . . . . 227

APPENDICES . .... . . . . . . . 232

FRAME. . . . ... 260

BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . .... . 262

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . . 275




OFFENDER. . . . . . . . . 212

CAREERS . . . . . . . ... 219


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the
Graduate Council of the University of Florida in
Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the
Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Thomas M. Heisenhelder

August, 1975

Chairman: Felix M. Berardo
Major Department: Sociology

A full theory of criminal careers must be able

to explain the development of criminal behavior through

three stages within offenders' careers in crime. These

stages are referred to as entry, continuation, and exit-

ing. This dissertation attempts to evaluate the rela-

tive worth of two schools of thought within criminology

as theoretical explanations of the development of crimi-

nal careers.

The study is directed towards three specific

objectives. The first is to provide a phenomenological

description of the career development of the typical

nonprofessional property offender. The second objective

is to determine which of two general approaches in

criminological theory best explains the criminal career

of the nonprofessional property offender. The final

objective is to closely examine exiting as a stage in

the criminal career of the nonprofessional property

of fender .

The two general theoretical approaches examined

in this study are deterministic and voluntaristic crimi-

nology. The specific content and historical development

of these general schools of thought is reviewed.

Deterministic criminology includes the explanation of

criminal behavior generally referred to as structural

strain theory and cultural transmission theory. Volun-

taristic criminology includes modern control theory and

societal reactionism. During the discussion of these

theories, general propositions concerning the development

of criminal careers are derived from each school.

These theoretical arguments are evaluated

through the analysis of data collected during inter-

views with 20 prison inmates whose official records

display the characteristics common to the nonprofes-

sional property offender. Each of these interviews was

tape-recorded. The interviews were then analyzed ac-

cording to the techniques of phenomenological sociology.

This analysis produced a descriptive typification of the

criminal career of the nonprofessional property offender.

Special emphasis was placed on the oft-neglected exiting

sta ic within criminal careers.

The findings of the study are described

separately for each stage of career development. These

findings strongly support the position of voluntaristic

criminology in general, and control theory and societal

reactionism in particular. The findings of the disser-

tertion suggest that the development of criminal careers

is the result of reasonable and voluntary choices made by

the individual within facilitating social contexts.





This dissertation is a study in the sociology and

phenomenology of criminal behavior. It addresses three

research questions pertinent to criminology and the soci-

ology of deviant behavior. The first question is, how

does the criminal career of the typical nonprofessional

property offender develop and change. The second question

concerns the relative worth of two prominent theoretical

approaches as explanations of these criminal careers. The

two approaches are referred to as deterministic and volun-

taristic criminology because they reflect a division based

on assumptions about the determined or voluntary nature

of social action. Included within the deterministic

approach are theories of deviance and crime that tradition-

ally are known as theories of cultural transmission and

theories of structural strain. Voluntaristic criminology

includes the theories generally termed control theory and

societal reactionism. The comparative accuracy of these

two theoretical approaches is evaluated by appraising the

extent to which their theoretical precepts explain the

primary contingencies in career development.

A third research question of the dissertation con-

siders exiting as a stage in the criminal career of the

nonprofessional property offender: what social contingen-

cies induce attempts at exiting and, in turn, how do they

affect the success or failure of these attempts. All three

research problems are interrelated and build upon one


The general goal of this research is to develop a

typification of the career path of nonprofessional property

offenders and then to evaluate the relative utility of

deterministic and voluntaristic criminology in explaining

three important stages of career development. These stages

are called entry, continuation, and exiting and are adapted

from Frazier's (1973) categorization of stages in deviant


Frazier convincingly argued that a total explanation

of deviant careers should be able to explain behavior at

three stages of career development: primary emergence,

patterning, and change.

.primary emergence directs at-
tention to the factors causing the
first instances of deviant behavior.
Patterninq leads us to consider the
forces involved in causing specific
forms of deviance to become stabilized
S.Change pertains to the causes of
disengagement from a pattern of
deviant behavior (Frazier, 1973:2).

The renaming of these stages as entry, continuation, and

exiting respectively was done in order to emphasize more

clearly the processural nature of social action and crimi-

nal careers. It is thought that these terms connote less

permanence than do those used by Frazier. The terms entry

and exiting convey a portrait of criminal careers as inter-

dependent paths of action. Exiting is considered to be a

less prejudicial term than change. Change may imply the

occurrence of personality or identity alterations that may

or may not be present in empirical cases.

The Data

The data analyzed in this study were collected

through unstructured interviews with 20 nonprofessional

property offenders. The interviews were conducted at a

correctional institution in the southern United States.

The interviews were organized around the criminal careers

of respondents selected for participation in the study

according to their official criminal records. Inmates whose

arrest records displayed a recurring pattern of simple

property offenses were asked to volunteer for the study.

The interview conversations were tape-recorded, and they

resulted in the collection of 20 topical life-histories and

criminal careers of the respondents.

The Method of Analysis

The analysis of these data was performed according

to the techniques of phenomenological sociology. This style

of analysis is directed to uncovering the social meanings

and self-conceptions of the actor. The transcriptions of

the interviews were reduced to a phenomenologically con-

structed typification of the criminal career of the

nonprofessional property offender. The typification in-

cludes the primary intersubjective contingencies that

informed the development of the offenders' criminal careers.

This typification was then used to evaluate the relative

utility of deterministic and voluntaristic criminology as

explanations of the criminal career of the nonprofessional

property offender. A more detailed discussion of the

methodology used in the dissertation is included in Chapter


The Organization of the Dissertation

The presentation of this study is divided into

several interrelated areas of concern. Chapter 2 is

basically an analytical review of the current content of

criminological theory. Criminological theory is divided

into two schools of thought---deterministic and volun-

taristic criminology---based on the philosophical model

of man that underlies each school. Each general approach

is reviewed through a discussion of several important and

representative theories of criminal behavior. During this

review, the explanation offered by each group of theories

for the development of criminal careers is discussed. Then,

general propositions reflective of the consensus within

each broad approach concerning the development of criminal

careers are presented.

Chapter 3 describes the methodology used in the

study. It begins with a preliminary introduction to

phenomenological sociology and the general methodological

framework used in this.research. Other sections of the

chapter consider the characteristics of the nonprofessional

property offender as an offender type, the selection of the

respondents, the format and procedures used in the inter-

viewing of the respondents, and the general development of

the research project. The chapter concludes with a detailed

discussion of the phenomenological techniques of analysis

used in the study.

The next four chapters of the dissertation report

the research findings. Chapter 4 provides a description

of the initial stages of the career development of the

typical nonprofessional property offender. Findings con-

cerning the experience of imprisonment are presented in

Chapter 5. Chapter 6 discusses the data bearing upon the

process of becoming a semiprofessional property offender.

Chapter 7 focuses on exiting from a career in nonpro-

fessional property crime. At the conclusion of each of

these discussions, the theoretical implications of the

research findings are briefly discussed.

Chapter 8 interprets and organizes the theoretical

implications of these findings. A review of the descriptive

findings of the study is also conducted in this chapter.

Finally, a model for the construction of a general theory

of criminal careers is proposed.


Briefly stated, in this dissertation I attempt to:

(1) provide a phenomenological description of the criminal

career of the typical nonprofessional property offender;

(2) determine which school of criminological theory best

explains the career development of the nonprofessional

property offender; and (3) provide a close consideration

of exiting as a stage within criminal careers.




This chapter is an analytical review of the liter-

ature. The content of sociological criminology is reviewed

in order to identify two general approaches to the study

of criminal behavior. Each school of thought is described

both in terms of general premises and specific theories

that are representative of that school. Explanations of

criminal careers representing each theoretical approach

are identified. It will be these explanations that will

be used to evaluate the relative worth of the two approaches

when compared to a phenomenological description of the

career development of the typical nonprofessional property


Assumptions in Criminological Theory

The importance of background assumptions for the

development of sociological theory has been clearly

formulated in the critical reviews of Alvin Gouldner (1970).

The insights revealed in Gouldner's reflexive sociology

have begun to be realized within modern social thought.

However, too few have applied this style of critical

analysis to criminological theory (for one such attempt,

see Taylor, et al., 1973). One method of bringing to

light the background premises that underlie criminological

theory is to uncover the areas of consensual agreement

among groups of theory. It is considered axiomatic that

in order to comprehend adequately a social theory, one

must clearly grasp the philosophical beliefs that form

the base of that theory. This is a major point of

Gouldner's recent analytical work.

What I am saying, is that the work of soci-
ologists, as well as of others, is influenced
by a subtheoretical set of beliefs, for that
is what background assumptions are: beliefs
about all members of a symbolically consti-
tuted domain (Gouldner, 1970:32).

Domain assumptions in sociology describe the core aspects

of the individual, or those qualities generally referred

to by the ideas of the self-concept and identity. Within

criminology, these assumptions are clearly visible in the

assumed model of man upon which theoretical propositions

are based.

The model of man adopted by a theorist and

reflected in his work is useful as a means of classifying

social theories. For the purposes of this study, domain

The social self is defined by Mead (1934:135-226) as man's
ability to become an object to himself. Identity is
defined by Erikson (1950:261-263) as an inner sense of
continuity and sameness across time and space.

assumptions in criminology are best seen as creating two

somewhat overlapping schools of thought. One will be

called deterministic criminology and the other, volun-

taristic criminology. In this chapter, these schools of

thought are used to organize the varied content of crimi-

nological theory. As with all classificatory schemes, this

one is an abstraction from the specific theories and, in

fact, places these schools in their most extreme opposition.

Fundamental areas of conflict between the two schools of

thought are delineated.

Deterministic Criminology and Sociology

The deterministic answer to questions concerning

the nature of the human actor is dominant in contemporary

criminology (see, Vold, 1958:38; Matza, 1964:1-27). This

dominance is revealed by the theoretical impact of the

work of the positive school of criminology from Lombroso

(1911) to contemporary theorists (see, for example, Merton,

1938; Cloward and Ohlin, 1960).

The model of the self that is found throughout

deterministic criminology is constructed around the

suppositions of nonrationality, passivity, and the de-

termined nature of the human actor. The core of the

individual is described as primarily reactive in that

social action is the result of a relatively passive

adjustment to the demands of external, or uncontrollable

internal, factors. Action is created and directed by

libidinal urges, conditioners, or internalized norms,

values, and roles. Valid explanations of action are found

in environmental and biological conditions which generally

are beyond the self-conscious control of the actor.

Behavior is not reasonably directed or symbolically con-

structed; rather, it is nonrational and is produced by the

social, psychological, or biological structure imposed on

the actor.

In fact, the core of the actor, his self, is de-

termined by the spatial and temporal world of the past.

The actor cannot transcend the existential conditions of

either his body or the external social world. As a result

of these views, the deterministic criminologist focuses on

socialization and the mechanisms of the social structure

and related social roles as general explanations of crimi-

nal behavior (Merton, 1938; Cloward and Ohlin, 1960;

Sutherland and Cressey, 1966). Within the deterministic

model of the self, socialization becomes a major causal

variable.2 One behaves as one is socialized to behave.

Further, one is what one is socialized into being.

See Wrong (1961) for an excellent critique of the
theoretical use of socialization in modern sociology.

Thus, for the determinist, domain assumptions

involve the causal role of heredity or socialization as the

producers of the self. The individual is described by this

school as a composite of internalized social roles and

beliefs that direct the satiation of the biological needs

of the organism. These factors produce activity as they

are released in accordance with the requirements of the

social group. Behavior, deviant or conventional, is the

product of a given type of actor formed by the forces of

heredity and socialization. There exist deviant, or poorly

and inappropriately socialized, actors. Deviance is the

result of an inappropriate self-structure which, in turn,

is caused by inappropriate socialization.

Origins i the "Italian School"

The earliest forms of deterministic criminology

were essentially biological explanations of social deviance.

These theories appeared in the nineteenth century and were

developed by Lombroso and Ferri. These early criminologists

applied physiological theories of behavior to the study of

crime. Basically, the theorist proposed that criminal

activity is the result of some abnormality in the biolog-

ical constitution of the actor. That is, the criminal is

a biologically different type of actor from more con-

ventional individuals. In fact, criminals are organically

inferior to noncriminals, and this inferiority is revealed

in their glandular make-up, anatomy, or other physiological


The "Italian school" strongly influenced much of

subsequent criminology. Constitutional theories of crimi-

nal behavior were proposed by anthropologists (Hooton, 1939)

and psychologists (Sheldon, 1949). More recently, the

Gluecks (1956) have produced a massive body of research

that, to some extent, relies on biological determinism.

Even though their approach to the explanation of criminal

behavior is broader and more sophisticated than Lombroso's,

they also propose the existence of a causal relationship

between somatotype, or physique, and potential for crimi-

nality (Glueck, 1956:219).

In sum, it can be argued that the form of expla-

nation used by biological determinism proposes that crimi-

nals are measurably different types of actors than are

conventional individuals. Criminality is considered the

result of heredity, glandular structure, or some other

biological condition that is reflected in the anatomical

characteristics of the criminal type. Hooton (1939:309)

concluded his particular argument for deterministic crimi-

nology with a statement that is common in most biological

explanations of criminal behavior.

Criminals are organically inferior. Crime
is the result of the impact of the environment
on low-grade organisms.

The next section of this chapter will examine specific

sociological theories of criminal behavior that share a

set of background assumptions with the "Italian school."

Sociolo ical Determinism3

Modern deterministic criminology has largely re-

jected the simplistic explanations proposed by biological

determinists by stressing the significance of social and

psychological factors. Important to the development of

sociological determinism have been the ecological theories

of Shaw and his collaborators (1929; 1930; 1942), the

theory of differential association (Sutherland, 1939), and

the structural theories of Merton (1938), Cohen (1955),

Miller (1958), and Cloward and Ohlin (1960). All of these

theories contain clear implications for the study of crimi-

nal careers. However, the fundamental difference between

biological and sociological determinism is not the form of

explanation used, but the causative factors considered

relevant. In modern sociological determinism, the primary

causative factors considered relevant to the production

of criminal behavior are social or environmental as opposed

to biological. In short, these theories emphasize the

causal role of the socialization process.

Criminological determinism includes psychological and
psychiatric theory. However, for the purposes of this
study the discussion is limited to sociological crimi-

Cultural transmission theories. The ecological approach

to the explanation of criminal behavior is best described

in the work of Clifford Shaw ( 1 9 2 9 ; 1 9 3 0 )

S h a w p o s i t s t h e e x i s t e n c e o f "delinquency

areas" wherein consistently high rates of criminal behavior

are common. Generally, these criminality inducing areas

are found in the disorganized sections of urban centers

characterized by poverty, physical deterioration, and

high proportions of ethnic and minority groups. Proposing

that deviance is either highly tolerated or informally

approved in delinquency areas, Shaw considers these areas

to be detrimental-to the successful socialization of indi-

viduals to the conventional world. The child in these

areas is presented with deviant role models and uncon-

ventional values and thereby develops a self that is

positively inclined toward deviant behavior. To sum

briefly, Shaw's theory proposes that certain cultural areas

in cities produce criminal or deviant actors who have been

socialized into a life style that is in essence criminal.

The theory of differential association developed

by Edwin Sutherland (1939) is an attempt to explain the

process by which individuals living in socially disorganized

areas learn to commit infractions of the law. Attempting

to formulate a general theory of criminal behavior,

Sutherland proposes that the learning of deviant behavior

is achieved through the normal processes of social learning.

Criminal behavior is produced when the individual comes

into contact with an ". .excess of definitions favorable

to the violation of the law over definitions unfavorable

to the violation of the law" (Sutherland and Cressey,

1966:85). Thus, deviance is a result of being socialized

within disorganized communities where unconventional

standards are available for internalization.

Sutherland's emphasis on the normality of the

learning of criminal behavior is limited to the formal

aspects of socialization. Deterministic implications

within the theory become manifest when Sutherland describes

the content of differential association. It is attitudes,

definitions, and motives that are being internalized in

differential association. Although the criminal self is

structured by a process similar to that of conventional

actors, the roles and content of the criminal's self are

distinctively different from those of the noncriminal.

Differential association postulates the internalization of

motives, drives, and attitudes that form a deviant type

of actor. Thus, Sutherland's theory is essentially an

extension of Shaw's work on cultural transmission within

delinquency areas. Certain groups contain crimogenic

standards, and association with these groups results in

criminal behavior and criminal identities. Here again,

the actor is described as being socialized into becoming

a criminal; that is, a criminal self is created by the

social environment.

For the cultural transmission theorist, both the

emergence and the continuation of criminal behavior are

explained by the same set of causal factors. Entry into a

criminal career is a result of the internalization of

criminal roles and deviant standards. Continuation in

crime is simply a result of the continued presence of these

factors within the actor's self. Futhermore, similar prop-

ositions concerning the exiting stage of criminal careers

are also suggested by these theories.

Exiting from a criminal career requires the

reconstitution of the individual into a more conventional

type of actor. This is achieved through a process of

resocialization in which the actor rejects deviant standards

and internalizes conventional roles and beliefs. The

process of resocialization was felt to be accomplished best

by removing the individual from crimogenic environments and

placing him in more conventional groupings. Cressey (1955)

and others (see, for example, Cartwright, 1969:282-287)

have proposed the use of peer group pressure and guided

group interaction as resocialization techniques for the

creation of change in criminal behavior patterns.

Structural theories. Another influential branch of con-

temporary sociological determinism in criminology is

exemplified by the various structural explanations of

criminal behavior. These theories are well represented in

the work of Merton (1938), Cohen (1955), Miller (1958),

and Cloward and Ohlin (1960).

Perhaps the most significant theory in determin-

istic criminology is Robert Merton's version of anomie

theory. In "Social Structure and Anomie," (1938), Merton

posits an essentially deterministic explanation that

stresses the presence of structural strains toward deviance.
Anomie, or a disjunction between cultural goals and

socially legitimate means for the attainment of those goals,

causes individuals to resort to illegitimate avenues for

the realization of internalized cultural ends. This struc-

turally produced strain toward deviance is most strongly

experienced by those at the lower levels of the stratifi-

cation system who are most frustrated in their attempts to

succeed legitimately. Further, these-malintegrated actors

develop favored modes of adaptation to 'anomie; he also

implies that deviance results from an internalized

tendency of the actor.

The original discussion of the concept of anomie is
available in Durkheim's (1933) The Division of Labor in

I assume that the structure constrains
individuals variously situated within it
to develop cultural emphasis, social behavior
patterns, and psychological bents (Merton,

Merton implies that the individual is a passive recipient

of deviant tendencies, for one's adaptation to structural

conditions of anomie is determined by one's social biography

and social position. Even innovation, as a deviant

adaptation to structural strain, is not rationally chosen

but externally determined. The criminal innovator is

described as differing fundamentally from the conventional

social actor:

We see. .that anomics are consistently
more apt to engage in deviant behavior
than non-anomics. .anomics are more
vulnerable to pressures for deviance
(Merton, 1964:238).

Thus, Merton's theory concerning criminal behavior suggests

the existence of structurally determined deviant actors.

Anomie causes lower class individuals who have internalized

cultural standards of success and cannot use legitimate

routes to these goals to deviate. Seemingly this is due

to the internalized psychological structure of certain

actors who are unusually vulnerable to structural strains

toward deviance.

The notion that anomic frustrations create crimi-

nal behavior through the process of internalization is

reiterated in Cloward and Ohlin's (1960) synthesis of

Merton's model with differential association theory,

Cloward and Ohlin propose that delinquency is caused by

societal conditions that block lower class youths from the

opportunity to achieve occupational aspirations legitimate-

ly. Frustrated and alienated, the individual perceives

that he is a failure in conventional terms and joins with

other lower class youths in using deviant acts as an

alternative route to social status and prestige. These

alienated youths form a delinquent subculture whose

specific direction is determined by the learning oppor-

tunities available in their neighborhood. Within these

"gangs," the individual internalizes deviant roles that

require delinquent activity. That is, the role structure

of the subcultural group demands delinquency. Once the

individual is socialized into such a delinquent subculture,

it seems he will remain a criminal actor as long as he

finds continued social support for this role. Consequently,

if the youth is a member of a theft subculture and lives

in an area that provides the opportunity for differential

association with adult thieves, he is likely to graduate

into adult crime himself.

Like Merton, Cloward and Ohlin explain the entry and

continuation stages of criminal behavior by reference to

the structural conditions that cause individuals to in-

ternalize deviant roles and standards. The lower class

youth does not merely steal; he has been socialized

into becoming a thief.

Cohen's (1955) theory of delinquent gangs is a

somewhat unique variation of the structuralists' theme.

Cohen attempts to combine normal structural explanation

with Freudian concepts. Here, criminal behavior is the

result of the youth's "reaction-formation" to his own

failure in living up to conventional standards of a-

chievement. The major subject of Cohen's theory (as in all

structural theories) is the lower class youth who, due to

his social position, is predetermined to fail when judged

by middle class standards. Such youths protect themselves

from this experience of failure by the collective con-

struction of a subcultural system that in effect reverses

middle class norms. Within this group, deviant standards

and role are internalized by the youths. The delinquent

subculture allows, even demands, criminal activities. In

sum, Cohen's work abides by the structuralist theme that

criminal behavior is the result of the social structure

forcing lower class individuals to form subgroups which

induce the internalization of deviant roles and values.

All that is required for criminal behavior to continue is

the individual's consistent possession of these deviant

characteristics and associates.

The final structural theory to be considered in

this review is perhaps the most parsimonious of all, the

subcultural theory of Walter Miller (1958). Here also,

the major causal factor in the creation of criminal action

is the process of socialization and the internalization of

deviant values and standards. Miller simply proposes that,

due to the structural conditions of society, lower class

subcultural "concerns" are likely to produce deviant

behavior. Lower class youths internalize standards that

are largely different from, and in conflict with, the norms

and laws of the larger society. Seemingly, for Miller,

crime and the lower class culture are essentially synony-

mous; for as a youth internalizes the expectations of his

family and peers, he also internalizes a tendency to break

the law. The criminal, or the lower class man, is seen hy

Miller as fundamentally different from noncriminal actors

who have internalized legitimate standards and a more

normal self. Criminal behavior is simply a result of the

lower class youth's striving to achieve the internalized

goals that he has learned from his cultural milieu. The

youth will continue in crime until he either changes his

social location or is resocialized.

The structural theories reviewed here share a

general explanation of criminal behavior. This pattern

of explanation initially places significant criminal

activity within the lower classes of society. In the lower

classes, individuals are described as having been forced by

the social structure to internalize deviant standards and

criminal roles and expectations. Most often, the structure

effects this internalization of a criminal self through the

primary groups of the individual which are often referred

to as the delinquent subculture. The cause of this

subcultural formation seems to be a shared frustration at

failing to achieve conventional goals. All that is re-

quired for the individual to continue his structurally

induced career in crime is the presence of social support

that reinforces the already internalized roles and values

of the criminal self. This may be actualized by graduation

into adult "gangs" or merely the absence of any diverting

factors within the environment of the individual.

Exiting is given a dual treatment in structural

theories. At the societal level, the internalization of

deviance can be prevented by the appearance of sweeping

changes in the social structure. Apparently, these struc-

tural alterations would result in the equalization of

opportunities and the disappearance of chronic anomie and

other strains that lead to criminal behavior. However, at

the level of individual criminal careers, the structur-

alists' propositions for exiting are similar to those of

Shaw and Sutherland. That is, exiting from a deviant

career is seen as the result of the resocialization of the

individual. Entry into a career in crime is the result of

the structurally induced internalization of deviant expec-

tations; therefore, individual abandonment of criminality

requires that the actor be resocialized and internalize

more conventional roles and beliefs.


The following theoretical arguments may be used to

characterize the explanations proposed by sociological

determinism concerning the evolution of criminal careers.

Entry into a career in crime is the result of the in-

ternalization of roles and expectations that produce

initial criminal acts. This process of socialization is

described as the result of particular cultural systems or

as the product of structurally induced anomie and failure.

Continuation in a criminal career and the emergence of

patterned criminal behavior is similarly explained by

sociological determinism. The existence of a criminal

role-self structure and the presence of criminal associates

results in the patterning of criminal behaviors.

Exiting, or the disengagement from a criminal

career, is described as the result of a process of resocial-

ization. That is, the individual enters into social

groupings, structural positions, or some form of therapy

program which results in the unlearning of criminal

behaviors and values and the internalization of more con-

ventional expectations and beliefs.

Voluntaristic Criminology and Sociology

The philosophical underpinnings of voluntaristic

criminology lie in the premise that man is an active

subject who creates his reality, rather than a passive

object within an objective reality. Voluntarists propose

that social realities are meaningfully constructed within,

and between, individuals.5 The model posits a natural and

intentional creativity within the actor as the basis for

both social action and social reality.

As mentioned earlier, the core of the human being

is most often described in sociology as the self. The

voluntarist conceives of the human actor as self-directed,

rational, and active. The theoretical foundations of this

approach in sociology are presented in the work of George

H. Mead (1934; 1938) and more recently in that of Blumer

(1969), Berger (1963), and Berger and Luckmann (1966).

For the voluntarist, the human actor is the

possessor of mind, thought, and a socially and personally

constructed self-concept (see, for example, Mead, 1934).

The self is the operative unit in the creation of social

action and in the construction of social meanings. The

self authors meaningful-activity through a process of

self-indications and rational decision. This process is

5Maclver (1942:291-300) has described the "within process"
as "dynamic assessment," and Blumer (1969) refers to the
"between" as "symbolic interaction."

characterized by internal interaction between the self

and symbolically constructed others abstracted from the

individual's social world. The actor symbolically reflects

on his biography, his self, and his social world and then

chooses between indicated alternatives for action. In

other words, the human actor indicates to himself potential

lines of action and related consequences as he decides how

to act, or how not to act. The actor is capable of reason

by the processes of internal reflection and the manipu-

lation of signs and symbols. This ability to use symbols

meaningfully allows the individual to mentally consider the

external conditions of time, space, body, and environment

(see, for example, Mead, 1938).

In sum, the voluntaristic perspective proposes that

the core of man is the active social self; thus, man is

capable of symbolic thought and self-conscious choice.

Man participates in meaningful activity.
He creates his reality, and that of the
world around him, actively and strenuously.
Man naturally--and not supernaturally--
transcends the existential realm in which
the conceptions of cause, force and
reactivity are easily applicable (Matza,

The human actor has will, choice,.and a directing social

self. Particularly significant to the understanding of

the use of this model in sociological criminology is the

proposition that this portrait is descriptive of all social

actors including those deviating and those conforming to

the common expectations of the social order. Both socially

approved and socially disapproved actions are the products

of these fundamental characteristics of the human being.

Origins in the Classical School

The initial application of voluntaristic criminology

is found in the early writings of a group of nineteenth

century social philosophers. The work of this school was

derived from the Hobbesian theory of the social contract

(1957) and is best stated in the work of Jeremy Bentham

(1823) and Cesare Beccaria (1809). Bentham's contribution

to the construction of the classical school is contained

primarily in his development of the rational model of man

and his support of the philosophical position of deterrence.

Bentham proposed that man was rationally hedonistic,

directing his behavior to seek pleasure and avoid pain.

Assuming man to be inherently amoral, Bentham posited that

the operation of this hedonistic calculus was apparent in

both criminal and conventional activity. Crime was the

result of deliberate decision and rational action for

which the larger group could justly hold the individual


Using similar premises, Beccaria developed an

extensive theory for the sanctioning of criminal acts.

Beccaria agreed that crime was the result of the rational

decisions of a normal social actor. Consequently, the

sanctions for illegal behavior should be organized into an

exact and nearly universal system of punishments. This

schedule of punishments was to be calculated with the

intention of deterring individuals from the profits and

pleasures of crime by attaching the threat of pain to such

activity. Thus for the classicists, crime was in itself

pleasureful and rewarding, and not a symptom of some

underlying pathology or maladjustment in the actor.

Beccaria proposed that if sanctions for crime were public,

swiftly applied, certain, and not overly severe, rational

actors would be deterred from choosing illegal paths of


Sociological Voluntarism

Modern sociological voluntarism is built upon the

premises outlined above and includes a broad variety of

specific sociological theories of criminal behavior. These

theories are well represented by rationalistic control

theory,6 and societal reactionism. Generally, the volun-

taristic approach in sociological criminology describes

criminal action as the reasonable solution of a self-

conscious actor to given situational conditions and

problems. Crime is not explained by reference to the

internalized social psychological core of the individual.

There are other, more deterministic, versions of control
theory; see, for example, Nye (1958), Reckless (1969).

In fact, voluntaristic criminology directly denies the

validity of socialization explanations. Rather, the

criminal is portrayed as a normal actor, and his illegal

behaviors are explainable within the rational model of

man used to describe the behavior of conventional groups

and individuals. Matza (1969:14) has summarized this

approach as follows:

Straying from the path need be regarded
as no less comprehensible nor more
bewildering than walking it. Given the
moral character of social life, both
naturally happen, and thus are pondered
and studied by sociologists and others.

In short, the voluntaristic criminologist-sociologist

defines criminal activity as normal, reasonable, self-

directed social behavior.

Reasonable deviance and contemporary control theory. A

primary subschool of modern voluntaristic criminology is

rationalistic control theory. This theoretical position

will be reviewed below as it has been developed through

the work of Matza (1964), Briar and Piliavin (1965),

and Hirschi (1969). Control theory, following the

suggestive leads of Durkheim (1951; 1961), considers

deviance to be nonproblematic.

Conformity, not deviance, is what actually demands

explanation. Generally these theorists explain conformity

by positing the existence of social restraints that bind

the actor to conventional paths of activity. Deviance

is seen as a normal, reasonable response resulting from

weak or broken social controls.

In Delinquency and Drift, David Matza (1964) has

constructed a sociological explanation of lower class gang

delinquency. He proposes that the "subterranean con-

vergence" of the dominant culture and the situation of the

lower class youth provide the juvenile with "techniques of

neutralization" by which he can suspend his ties to the

conventional moral order. The "techniques of neutrali-

zation" release the youth into a situation of "drift"

wherein he is neither constrained by the standards of the

conventional social world nor committed to deviance.

That is, the actor is free to deviate. The motivating

force that can be an impetus to delinquency is the indi-

vidual's subjective will. The will to deviate is, for

Matza, an outgrowth of the actor's situation of desperation

or his socially acquired preparation for the commission

of infractions of the law. If either, or both, of these

factors are present in the actor's situation, the will to

deviate is a likely result of the condition of drift.

Matza sees deviance as a result of the self-conscious

definitions of the youth as he confronts his social world.

The delinquent youth has not internalized deviant expec-

tations; rather, he is a normal youth willfully acting
within a given social context (1964:191).

Since the early statements of Durkheim (1951;

1961), control theorists have believed man to be basically

amoral and that morality is a result of social controls.

To this, the modern control theorist has added the prop-

osition that man is fundamentally a reasoning being.

Thus, social action, deviant and conventional, can be seen

as purposive and rational.

In the sociological control theory,
it can be and is generally assumed
that the decision to commit a
criminal act may well be rationally
determined--that the actor's deci-
sion was not irrational given the
risks'and costs he faces (Hirschi,

The extension of control theory as a full explanation of

criminal behavior is evident in the results of the

research done by Briar and Piliavin (1965). Rationalisitc

control theory provides the basic form of explanation for

their work. Here, "stakes in conformity" (see, Toby, 1957)

or behavioral and psychic investments in conventionality

are proposed as the major controlling factor in the actor's

deliberations. If these social investments are absent,

and situations arise that contain rewards conducive to

deviance, criminal behavior is a likely result. Like Matza,

Briar and Piliavin do not refer to the existence of in-

ternalized deviant standards. Rather, normal actors may

commit crimes if they lack meaningful reasons to conform

and are in a situation that they perceive as rewarding


The notion of rational commitment has also been

used by Travis Hirschi (1969). Hirschi's recent work is

perhaps the most clearly argued statement of modern control

theory. Building from the Durkheimian model of man,

Hirschi views criminal behavior as a result of the con-

ventional social order's lack of control over the individu-

al. Conformity, on the other hand, is produced by the

actor's possession of an emotional and instrumental "bond"

to the conventional social world. For Hirschi, this social

bond is composed of (1) psychological attachments to con-

ventional others, (2) rational commitments to conformity

created by social penalties and rewards, (3) individual

"investments" and temporal involvements in conventional

activities, and (4) acceptance of conventional beliefs.

Hirschi proposes that if the bond to conventional society

is weak, broken, or nonexistent, deviance becomes a

probable avenue of behavior for the individual.

In sum, control theorists have developed a

rationalistic explanation of criminal behavior. Crime is

a reasonable path of action for the individual who is left

uncontrolled by social and psychological ties to the con-

ventional moral order of society. If the social bond

remains weak, and the individual is rewarded by his

criminal actions, he is likely to continue along the

career line entered as a youth. On the other hand,

abandonment of a criminal career is seemingly the result

of the acquisition, or reacquisition, of a bond to the

social order. This may be the result of the natural

maturation of the delinquent (Matza, 1964), the deterrent

effect of reasonable penalties for crime (Toby, 1964),

or the actor's decision that it is no longer reasonable to

continue his criminal behavior (Frazier, 1976). However,

control theorists also imply that for these factors to

produce long-term changes in the patterns of behavior of

the individual, he must be able to develop a commitment to

conformity through the acquisition of meaningful "stakes"

and attachments within the conventional world.

Interactionism and societal reaction theory. Societal

reactionism, as a subschool of voluntaristic criminology,

focuses primarily on the effects of attempts at social

control on the patterning of criminal behavior. Therefore,

its implications for the study of criminal careers most

clearly speak to the stages of continuation and exiting.

The founding statements of the labeling perspective

lie within the work of Frank Tannenbaum (1938). These

initial hints at the effects of social control on deviant

careers reveal the interactionist base of most societal

reactionism. As an interactionist theory of deviance, the

labeling school focuses on the social psychological effects

of certain social and interpersonal situations. Tannenbaum

(1938:19-20) states that patterned criminal behavior is

a result of:

.a process of tagging, defining,
identifying, segregating, describing,
emphasizing, making conscious and
self-conscious. .The person becomes
the thing he is described as being.7

Tannenbaum's early suggestions were extended by

Edwin Lemert (1951). For Lemert, regardless of the causes

of primary deviance, secondary or patterned deviance is

the result of the symbolic reorganization of the actor's

identity which is often the outcome of being consistently

labeled a deviant. After a spiral of labeling and con-

tinued deviation, the individual may begin to consider

himself as being a deviant being. Thus, the consequence

of others' symbolic reactions to the offender's initial

behaviors is the creation of a criminal actor. That is,

continuation in a criminal career, or secondary deviance,

is explainable through the reactions of society to primary

deviations. Lemert also describes alternative methods of

This oft-quoted set of-remarks by Tannenbaum is in fact
deterministic in its description of the actor as a
"thing" that passively reacts to others' definitions
of himself.

dealing with negative societal reactions. Acceptance

of the label is only one of these. Additionally, the actor

may defend himself against the implications of the label

or he may "attack." Generally, however, it is the

acceptance response that is emphasized by the early societal

reactionists. Thus, the work of Tannenbaum and Lemert

displays a slant towards determinism in tending to explain

patterned deviance by the actor's acceptance of the deviant


The recent work of the interactionists within the

societal reactionist school9 has altered the position of

the early labeling theorists by relying more strongly on

the voluntaristic model of man. Here, man is believed to

be a self-conscious and reasonable being. Human action is

described as the product of meaningful decisions and a

creative will. The interactionist school of societal

reactionism is most clearly apparent in the theoretical

work of Becker (1963), Goffman (1961a;1963a), Lofland

(1969), Matza (1969), and Stebbins (1971).

8The importance of Lemert's inclusion of alternative
responses to labeling will be indicated later in this
section. See also the critical work of Warren (1974), Thio
(1973), Rogers and Buffalo (1974).

9For a good example of recent deterministic labeling theory
that stresses the static conception of the self as a
composite of roles, see Scheff (1966).

These theorists have more directly considered the

varied and problematic nature of the labeling process and

its effects on the individual. Labeling may be successful

or unsuccessful. Consequently, the individual may become

a secondary deviant and continue in crime, he may reform

himself, or he may be deterred by the reactions of the

agents of social control to his early deviations. Becker

(1963:9) has clearly indicated this flexibility and com-

plexity in his classic statement of the societal reaction-

ist definition of deviance:

deviance is not a quality of the
act the person commits, but rather a
consequence of the application by others
of rules and sanctions to an 'offender.'
The deviant is one to who othe label is
successfully applied.

The variable nature of labeling is a result of many social

factors such as the offender's situation, the audience,

and the labelers. Additionally, Becker rejected the early

societal reactionists' acceptance of deterministic

explanations for primary deviance by observing that most

people experience desires to act in a deviant fashion. It

is, for Becker, the public acceptance of the actor's

status as a deviant that informs the decision to continue

a career in deviance.

10Here Becker implies that the outcomes of labeling are
to be considered variable, even unsuccessful labeling is
a possibility.

The interactionist approach to labeling has been

further extended by the studies of Goffman (1961a; 1963a).

In Asylu ms Goffman (1961) considers both the power of

formal labeling and the creativity of the individual. The

description of the "mortification of self" that occurs

upon entrance to a total institution is essentially a

picture of the destructive impact of labeling and its

consequences for the reconstitution of the character of

the inmate:

. it is thus a tribute to the power
of social forces that the uniform status
of mental patients cannot only assure an
aggregate of persons a common character
but that this social reworking can be
done upon what is perhaps the most
obstinate of human materials (Goffman,

Goffman seems to be arguing that much of the self is a

product of external status and social role expectations

that are assigned to an inmate during his "moral career,"

or changes in self.

The moral career of a person of a given
social category involves a standard
sequence of changes in his way of
conceiving selves, including importantly
his own (Goffman 1961a:168).

Yet Goffman was aware of the complexity of the

self and did not commit himself to deterministic labeling

theory. He also recognized the rationality and activity

of the human being. This aspect of Goffman's perspective

is most clear in his discussion of the processes of

"making out" on the "back-stages" of a total institution.

This attitude is particularly evident in his analysis of

the inmate's creative use of "secondary adjustments," or:

...ways in which the individual stands
apart from the roles and self that were
taken for granted for him by the insti-
tution (Goffman, 1961a:189).

Even in the massively coercive atmosphere of the total

institution, the creative potential of man is manifestly

evident. Consequently, an inmate may elect to remove

himself, become intransigent, or adopt some other defensive

stance toward the institution and the label it provides.

Through the concept of "secondary adjustments," Goffman

provides the labeling perspective with an interactionist

portrait of the nature of man.

Our sense of being can cone from being
drawn into a wider social unit; our
sense of selfhood can arise through
the little ways in which we resist the
pull. Our status is backed by the solid
buildings of the world, while our sense
of personal identity often resides in
the cracks (1961a:320).11

"Secondary adjustments" uncover some alternative responses

to acceptance of the label.

1Goffman's conceptual distinction between the objective
social status of the individual, his social identity,
and the more subjective personal identity of the indi-
vidual is to become an important set of concepts in the
discussion of present research findings.

In Stigma Goffman (1963a) again relies on the notion

of "role distance" to illustrate the voluntaristic model

of man. He conceptualizes several techniques of identity-

management and information control through which the

stigmatized individual may attempt to control his social

world. Goffman (1963a:143) further portrays actors who

voluntarily decide to confront social expectations. This

conception of self-conscious deviance is in clear agreement

with the voluntarists' premises concerning the self-directed

nature of social action, both deviant and conventional.

Criminals well may be actors who simply elect to deviate

from the law.

The synthesis of the insights of labeling theory

and interactionism is achieved in the recent work of

Lofland (1969) and Matza (1969). Lofland's Meadian

analysis of deviance and the changes in identity associated

with the labeling process emphasizes the rationality and

will of the social actor. Entry into deviant activities

is the result of reasonable deliberations by the situated


If deviant acts are so frequently effective
and, in the short term, rational explaining
their occurrence may be less a question of
understanding why they sometimes occur
than of understanding why they do not occur,
more often (Lofland,1969:54).

Criminal behavior may be the result of the defensive or

adventurous decisions of the individual in certain social

contexts. If criminal activity is both an objectively

present and a subjectively meaningful possibility for the

solution to a given social situation, the actor may choose

to commit an infraction of the law. For Lofland, continued

career deviance is also a result of social contingencies

and the subjective meanings of the actor. The primary force

that leads to continuation is the actor's acceptance of the

label proffered by significant others and the agents of

social control. Likewise, different social circles and

interpersonal others can lead the actor to reject the label

and accept an identity as a normal individual (Lofland,

1969:177-202; 248-266). Thus, the workings of the labeling

process are variable. Depending on the social context and

the will of the actor, the label may create further deviance

or deter the actor from deviation and lead to the exiting

stage of a criminal career.

Insofar as the Actor experiences punishment,
and insofar as he does so under highly attenu-
ated strengths of the elements sketched, the
exercise of control likely functions as a
deterrent to deviance (Lofland, 1969:302).

Perhaps a more insightful statement of interaction-

ist labeling theory has been produced by David Matza (1969)

in his Becoming Deviant. Here Matza uses both the volun-

taristic model of man and the perspective of existential

phenomenology to illustrate the evolution of social deviance.

Although the individual's entrance into deviance is assisted

by affiliations and the actor's social context,the decisions

to deviate is the product of human will and reflective

consciousness. In his vivid modification of Becker's

classic study of marijuana use, he clearly states the

role of choice in social behavior; ". .it becomes

apparent that anyone can become a marijuana user and that

no one has to (1969:110)." The effects of affiliation and

other social conditions are mediated by the actor; that is,

entry into deviance requires an act of will by the indi-

vidual. Like Lofland, Matza explains the continuation of

deviance through the effects of negative societal reactions

to initial deviations. This is referred to as the process

of "signification." Being cast as a criminal and excluded

from normal social circles, the actor often is led to

a continuation of criminal activity and an acceptance of

the label of being a criminal.

However, even after successful "signification,"

the individual's career in crime remains open.

Even at the conclusion of the signifi-
cation process imprisonment and
parole the process of becoming deviant
remains open. Reconsideration continues;
remission remains an observable reality
(Matza, 1969:196).

Again, the effects of labeling are complex and variable

due to the rationality and will of the individual. Perhaps

the actor will be deterred by the perceived consequences

of his actions, or perhaps "signification" will lead to

further patterned deviance. Matza's phenomenological

analysis of deviance clearly reflects the assumptions that

derive from the voluntaristic approach.

Recently Stebbins (1971) has incorporated the

concept of commitment into the societal reactionist

framework for the explanation of secondary deviance.12

Stebbins (1971:xvi) defines commitment in a manner that

reflects the basic rationality of the actor.

Commitment is the belief on the part of
the committed individual that he is
trapped in his deviant role by the force
of penalties that appear when he tries
to establish himself in non-deviant
circles, . .this concept is to be
distinguished from value commitment or
positive attraction to a specified belief,
attitude or pattern of behavior.

Commitment thus describes a situation where it is no longer

reasonable for an individual to conform due to the con-

sistent negative responses of others to his attempts at

conformity.13 Of course, the possibility of conventional

behavior is always available; but at some point, conformity

ceases to be the most rational path of action for the

1Stebbins' work draws and builds upon the early
suggestions of Becker (1963) concerning the notion of
commitment to deviance.

13It is interesting to note that the notion of commitment
that is often used by determinists to explain the actor's
complusion to deviance is redefined by Stebbins and used
to indicate how normal actors can rationally decide
to perform consistent patterns of deviant behavior within
given social situations.

actor. Consequently, he may continue his criminal


Still despite these costs, the individual
objectively has a choice between the
identity or expectation which brings
them and on the identity or expectation
which leads him to avoid them. The
subjective balance of penalties determines
how the choice will be made. .(Stebbins,

Thus, for the societal reactionist, the actor rationally

chooses to pattern his criminal behavior and further

develop a career in crime.

The interactionist version of societal reactionism

explains the initial appearance of criminal behavior

through an emphasis on the choice of the actor made within

a facilitating social context. This social context is

composed of meaningful affiliational networks, signifi-

cant others, places, and objects. All of these theorists

emphasize that crime is a rewarding form of action

consciously selected by the individual. Continuation in

a criminal career is generally explained through reference

to the labeling process. Ironically, social controls

often create the very behavior that they attempt to contain

and eliminate. Labeling may alter the personal identity

of the individual or it may lead to continuation through

the isolating effects of the social identity imposed on

the actor by others. On the other hand, labeling also

may lead the individual to reconsider and attempt to

abandon his criminal career. The success of such an

attempt is seen to be largely dependent on the individual's

ability to repudiate the deviance producing effects of the



The following set of statements are presented as

a brief summary of the explanations concerning criminal

careers which are presented by voluntaristic criminology.

Entry into a criminal career is the result of the deliber-

ations and decisions of the actor and is a reasonable

form of conduct. Thus it becomes highly probable when

the actor is not meaningfully "bonded" to the conventional

order and when he is within a social context that he

defines as rewarding criminal behavior. The continuation

of deviance is the result of the consistent presence of

these initial conditions and the added effects of the

labeling process which further exclude the individual from

conventional society. Exiting from a criminal career is

dependent upon the choice of the individual and may also

be a response to labeling. The success of exiting is

largely contingent upon the actor's ability to deny the

label and acquire some form of meaningful tie to conformity.

Career Development in
Criminological Theory

As revealed in the preceding review of the litera-

ture, the explanations of criminal behavior proposed by

individual theories within a general approach are somewhat

unique. However voluntaristic theories share some common

characteristics which are not apparent in deterministic

criminology and vice versa. This discussion will detail

these differences and similarities.

Alternative Explanations of Criminal Careers

The reason for the division of criminological

theory into two general approaches is founded in the belief

that the statements proposed within each school are based

on a consensus concerning an assumed model of man. Deter-

ministic theorists describe the core of the social actor,

or his self, as the direct result of the internalization

of values, norms, and social role expectations. Further,

they stress the static nature of the self and the natural

permanance of internalized behavioral tendencies. On the

other hand, the voluntaristic approach is based on the

rational model of man. The self here is both reasonable

and creative. These theorists describe the core of the

actor as constantly in process.

The importance of these domain assumptions for this

study lies in their effect on the explanations of criminal

careers provided by each school. Although few of the

specific theories reviewed offer a total explanation for

the development of deviant careers, and while many are

quite narrow in their focus, it is possible to derive

propositions relevant to such a task from each general


Deterministic criminology explains entry into crimi-

nal careers by reference to internalized values and roles

within the actor. Socialization is the primary explanatory

variable in these theories. The actor is socialized so

that he internalizes a compelling tendency to commit crimes.

Continuation in a criminal career is dealt with in a

similar fashion. The existence of a criminal role or self

within the actor explains the patterning of criminal ac-

tivity. To change the actor's career-line from criminality

to conventionality, the actor himself must be altered.

The deterministic criminologists explain exiting from a

criminal career through the process of resocialization.

Building upon the rational model of man, the

voluntarists explain the process of entry as the result of

the reasonable choice of an actor in a situation which he

defines as conducive to the commission of crime. Continu-

ation along the criminal career-line is similarly handled.

The patterning of criminal behavior is described as

contingent upon the continued existence of a social

context, such as the situation of labeling, which makes

criminal activity reasonable and rewarding. Since the

voluntarists see crime as the reasonable action of a normal

actor, resocialization is not necessary for exiting.

Rather, the abandonment of a criminal career can be ex-

plained simply as action chosen in a context wherein it is

no longer reasonable to continue criminal activities. To

question the assumptions that underlie the conflict between

deterministic and voluntaristic criminology requires a

unique perspective. I believe that the needed methodology

is provided by the phenomenology of Husserl (1931) and

Schutz (1962). This research employs the phenomenological

method in the study of criminal careers in order to arrive

at a description of the career development of the typical

nonprofessional property offender which is founded upon

the subjective meanings within the consciousness of the

acting individual. This phenomenological typification

provides the basis for a comparison of the relative

worth of the explanations for criminal careers offered by

deterministic and voluntaristic criminology. A special

focus of this analysis is the oft-neglected exiting stage

of career development. It is hoped that this style of

research will provide new insights within the sociological

study of criminal careers.



Phenomenological Sociology

The phenomenological method applied here was

originally stated in the philosophical work of Edmund

Husserl (1931; 1973) and was adapted by Schutz (1962) to

the discipline of sociology. The specific procedures of

the phenomenological sociologist are directed toward the

goal of understanding social behavior from the subjective

view of the social actor. Generally, that goal is attained

in this research by methodological techniques that require

the observer-analyst to empathize with, or take-the-role-

of, his subjects (see, Cooley, 1902:136-137). This

empathetic understanding reveals to the phenomenologist

the world of experience as it is given to the individual,

and from which the individual constructs a meaningful

life-world centered around his reflective consciousness of

himself. The method

S .delivers the analyst into the arms of
the subject who renders the phenomena, and
commits him, though not without regrets
or qualifications, to the subject's
definition of the situation (Matza, 1969:25).

However, it is important to note that the investigator

remains the analyst; that is; he is a once removed third

party to the actor's life-world and may, indeed must,

question the beliefs within the thetic-consciousness of

his subjects. The primary aim of phenomenology is to

portray the subject's consciousness of the phenomena

accurately and to construct analytical conclusions with an

awareness of the importance of the actor's perspective.

In short, these techniques reveal the social

meanings held by the acting individual. The assumption

here is that it is the meanings that others, events, and

oneself are defined as possessing which form the basis of

social action. It follows that in order to understand

social actions, one must first become aware of the contents

of the consciousness of the individual. In other words,

the observer must attempt to see from the perspective of

those he is observing. As Blumer (1969:51) has argued,

the sociologist must be able to oneself in the position of
the individual or collectivity.
to take the role of others.

Phenomenological analysis provides a radically empirical

means of analyzing social reality from the position of the

acting individual. As will be explained later, the

observer is able to reach these subjective data by relying

on the natural intersubjectivity of social life.

The phenomenological position clearly shares some

kinship with the theoretical perspective of the

voluntarists, just as positivistic methods are related to

deterministic theories of social behavior. However,

these relationships do not preclude the use of phenomenology

to test these schools of theory. The conflict between two

approaches is not over the premise that meanings are im-

portant for the study of social action, but rather the

question of which meanings are important for what actions.

The fundamental question is whether social behavior is a

direct result of the internalized standards of the indi-

vidual, or whether social action is a result of reasonable

choices made bythe actor.

The "attitude" of the phenomenologist does not

allow him to be enclosed by the conclusions of others. The

only proposition with which the phenomenologist enters the

field is the belief in the necessity to suspend all

theoretical presumptions about the subject under scrutiny.

Therefore, although the theoretical conclusions of

phenomenological study may propose the existence of "pre-

reflexive consciousness" (Sartre, 1953:1ii-lix) or a

"transcendental ego" (Husserl, 1973), the phenomenological

observer must suspend these notions while he is in the

field. The phenomenological method is concerned with the

1Likewise, one can legitimately use positivistic
methods to evaluate these theories. For an excellent
example of this type of research see Hirschi (1969).

thing itself as it appears to human consciousness. Such

a method is clearly applicable to the performance of

sociological research.

Analytical Stages

This study addresses three basic research problems.

These questions are interrelated and build upon one

another. The study begins by addressing the problem of

developing a phenomenological description of the career

of the nonprofessional property offender. A typification

of the nonprofessional property offender's career that

includes and incorporates the intersubjective factors

which influence and shape career development is presented.

Secondly, this typification is used to evaluate the

comparative utility of deterministic and voluntaristic

criminology as explanations of the career development of

the nonprofessional property offender. In short, these

two theoretical orientations are pitted against the

phenomenologically constructed typification of the

nonprofessional property offender's career. Finally, as

a related concern, the study examines in depth the process

of exiting from a criminal career. This last focus of the

research is of special import due to the theoretical

neglect of exiting as a stage within criminal careers.

The data collected for the study resemble "topical

life-histories" of the respondents (Denzin, 1970:222-223).

The application of life-history data in criminology is

derived from its use in general sociology at the University

of Chicago beginning in the 1920's (see, for example,

Thomas and Znaniencki,1927; Anderson, 1923; Shaw, 1930;

Sutherland, 1937). In this research, the life-history plan

was used only as a means of ordering the collection of the

data. Analysis, as has been mentioned, was performed with

the tools of phenomenology. The life-history method of

data collection was used in order to obtain information

concerning the criminal life of the respondent as it was

perceived by the actor himself (see, Becker, 1966:v-xviii;

Denzin, 1970:202):

Before going further into the specific methods

used here, perhaps a statement concerning the flexibility

of the research design described above would be helpful.

Truth as a social phenomena is socially constructed. In

the everyday life of sociology, truth is a result of the

conflict of opinions between sociologists and sociological

theories. This study is an attempt to advance sociological

truth by openly confronting a basic dispute in contemporary

criminology. This conception of the social nature of

theoretical truths is directly opposed to the idea that the

validity of a statement is determined by the method

according to which it was made. All types of study--

intuition, science, play--may produce a convincing argument

and an acceptable truth. The design of this study was

greatly influenced by the need for freedom in sociological

research. Concepts were kept fluid, questions were con-

structed during the ongoing interview, and the interviewer

was open to all forms of information. I believe that these

procedures add to, rather than subtract from, the credi-

bility of the results within the intersubjective world of


Data Collection and Field Procedures

The following sections will describe the rationale

and procedures used in collection of the data for the study.

The discussion will center on the selection of respondents,

and the development of the interviewing process.


The men interviewed for this study were a group of

twenty felons convicted and incarcerated for the commission

of property offenses. These men volunteered to participate

in the study and were chosen on the basis of offense

patterns as revealed from studying each man's prison file.

These files were used to initially select a larger group

of inmates (38) who had displayed a relatively long history

of officially processed property offenses. Of these

thirty-eight men, twenty-two agreed to be interviewed.

For the founding argument concerning freedom in sociologi-
cal research, see Phillips (1973), Abandoning Method.

Two of the volunteers were not interviewed. One respondent

was transferred to another institution prior to his inter-

view, and the other was in the prison hospital at the time

he was scheduled to be interviewed.

The use of typologies within criminology has been

common since the early work of Lombroso and Ferri.

Presently, the use of typologies is still a common method

by which the theorist ties his abstract work to empirical

reality (see, for example, Gibbons, 1965; Roebuck, 1966;

Schafer, 1969:140-182). The rationale behind the analyti-

cal use of typologies in criminology has been succinctly

stated by Clinard and Quinney (1973:vii):

Criminal behavior covers a great variety
of violations of criminal laws. For
purposes of explanation this behavior
must be broken down into types.

An adequate comprehension of deviant behavior demands that

this category of social conduct be further typified or

categorized into specific types of action. The con-

struction of a behavioral type serves to highlight the

characteristics and attributes that the observer or the

theorist considers to be the boundaries of his study. As

Schutz (1962) repeatedly demonstrates, these thetic

typifications are built upon the empirical world and are

abstractions from everyday life. They are thus analytical

more than they are descriptive.

As with any perceptual tool, theoretical types both

clarify and channel perception. That is, typologies, like

larger theoretical schemes, are founded in background

assumptions concerning the individual and his behavior.

For instance, most typologies in modern criminology present

a clear deterministic bias by implying that criminal

behavior is explained through the inner state of the crimi-

nal. Isolated typologies attempt to explain behavior by

merely describing the characteristics of the actor.

However, a reflective and consistent awareness of

the intrinsic determinism of actor types can result in the

conscious use of behavioral typologies as an analytical

tool which reaches beyond itself to a full understanding

of social action. Criminal behavior is indeed a complex

phenomenon; and in order to clearly recognize this

complexity, one must first consider analytically separate

slices of the whole. Sociological theory is best built

from the ground up (see, Merton, 1967:39-73; Glaser and

Strauss, 1967); that is, it should proceed from types of

criminal behavior, to crime in general, to social deviance.

The typological categorization used here has been con-

structed carefully and with a reflective eye on the deter-

ministic bias of typological explanations. The nonpro-

fessional property offender (NPO) as a type is founded

upon the observable existence of a distinctive pattern of

criminal activity. The following is a brief description

of the nonprofessional property offender as a behavioral


The NPO3 type, as described below and throughout

the remaining chapters of this work, is itself a construct

that is derived from criminological research. It is an

idealization of what actually exists in the first order

world of everyday life. In the construction of the NPO

type used as a guide for the selection of respondents,

reliance was placed on the official portrait of the indi-

vidual as revealed in prison files and on previous dis-

cussions of related conceptions in current criminological


The NPO is similar to the type of offender described

by Clinard and Quinney (1973:131-154) as one who commits

"conventional criminal behavior" and by Stebbins (1971:

78-80) as "the nonprofessional criminal". It is character-

ized by a subjectively and officially recognized pattern

of criminal behavior which is organized around the repeated

commission of crimes such as burglary, robbery, and

forgery. In other words, these men exhibited an official

record composed of a pattern of relatively uncomplicated

3Throughout the remainder of the study the abbreviation
"NPO" will be used to refer to the "nonprofessional proper-
ty offender."

and unskilled property offenses. The most frequent offense

characteristic of the respondents was burglary or breaking

and entering, although the actual continuum of offenses

ranged from attempted murder to public drunkenness.

Additionally, each of these men had experienced several

periods of incarceration within penal institutions. Arrest

frequencies ranged from five to twenty-seven; but prison

terms were infrequent, and when imposed, were usually no

longer than five years. Irwin's (1970:24) description of

the "disorganized criminal" fits the NPO well.

Disorganized criminals, who make up the bulk
of convicted felons, pursue a chaotic,
purposeless life filled with unskilled,
careless and variegated criminal activity.

Also, the NPO is similar to Stebbins' (1971:74) "nonpro-

fessional criminal."4

The nonprofessional, as compared with
his professional counterpart, lacks
any extensive skills in carrying out
his conventional activities, although
he is successful enough at the height
of his career to make some sort of
living by crime.

Nonprofessional property offenders were selected

for use here for several interrelated reasons. First, the

In other criminological typologies, the closest category
to the NPO has been variously referred to as the "jack-of-
all-trades offender" (Roebuck, 1962) and the "Habitual-
situational criminal" (Lindesmith and Dunham, 1941).

fact that more felons are convicted of property offenses

than of any other category of offense (see, Glaser, 1964;

President's Commission, 1968) indicates that study of this

type of offender will produce conclusions which are

applicable to the largest single class of officially

processed criminals. Also, since the property offenders

are frequent recidivists (see, Glaser, 1964; President's

Commission, 1968), they provide data particularly relevant

to the study of stabilized criminal behavior patterns.

Third, property offenders are of specific import to the

theoretical positions of both determinists (see, Merton,

1938; Sutherland,-1939; Cloward Ohlin, 1960) and volun-

tarists (Hirschi, 1969; Matza, 1969) in criminology.

Finally, the study of respondents with a good deal of

deviant experience will be more likely to produce data

which pertain to the full evolution of criminal careers

through stages of entry, continuance, and exiting.

5It is important to note that at the time of the inter-
views, all of the respondents were incarcerated in a
state correctional institution.

The Interview Format

The unstructured interview was the primary

observational instrument of this study.6 This style of

interviewing is more commonly described by sociologists

as the nonstandardized interview (Denzin, 1970:126). In

this type of interviewing, the formal content of the inter-

view is not prestructured. The rationale for using this

method of observation is that the most valuable data-

gathering procedures and questions are determined within

the interactional context of each interviewing situation.

Questions are formed according to the qualities of the

respondent, the content and mood of the past dialogue,

and the expanding avenues of interest of the participants

in the conversation. Thus, this style of interviewing

allows the respondent to indicate freely to the observer

the most significant factors as he defines his situation.

It is also felt that this unstructured form of interviewing

can elicit information on criminal careers without relying

on preconstructed questions that might lend support to one

or other of the theoretical schools under consideration.

This procedure is of special relevance to this

research due to the limitations of more structured methods

when they are applied to questions surrounding deviant

6Jack Douglas (1967) has demonstrated that interviews
contain information which is well-suited for the study of
social meanings and actions through phenomenological a-

behavior. For instance, many prison inmates, like uni-

versity students, are quite cognizant of the standard

psychological tests and may consciously manipulate them

for any number of personal reasons.7 Further, the

inflexibiltiy of structured instruments assumes a univer-

sality of meanings that can not be taken for granted in

this research. The more structured methods of interviewing

also require that the investigator predetermine his

questions on the basis of his conceptual definitions and

hypotheses, thereby closing-off unexpected data and

responses. Consequently, the observer is not free to learn

to appreciate the actor's subjective experiences. Addi-

tionally, the fixed structure of most procedures does not

allow the observer or the respondent to autonomously follow

suggestive leads that unexpectedly occur during the inter-

view. Cohen and Taylor (1972:35) have cogently stated the

necessity for unstructured and flexible methods when one

is studying those who act unconventionally or are in

unusual social situation.

The men knew much more about th'e
territory than we did and to constrain
them with our categories would have
been presumptuous. .

In fact, one of the respondents in this study related to
me just such an indictment of standard personality tests
and the ease with which he and others could sabotage these

These general procedures for the collection of data

were chosen in order to obtain the desired information and,

at the same time, to minimize the intervention of theoreti-

cal bias and preconceptions. In short, these methods

maximize the opportunity for the phenomenon-as-experienced

to emerge from the interviewing process.

Interviewing Procedures

As mentioned earlier, a list of thirty-eight inmates

was selected from a review of prison files. Names of those

inmates whose files indicated the characteristics of non-

professional property offenders were included on this list.

These thirty-eight men were asked to discuss the project in

a preliminary interview. In the preliminary interview, the

subject was introduced to the study and to the investigator.

He was informed that the investigator was an independent

research-sociologist who was in no way concerned with the

state correctional system. The inmate was also informed

about the study. He was told that the research was part of

the investigator's doctoral dissertation and that partici-

pation in it was voluntary and unpaid. The respondent was

informed that the investigator desired to gather informa-

tion concerning the experiences of the offender from the

point of view of the offender. He was informed that the

data collected would be analyzed to evaluate the credibility of

current criminological theory. The inmate was assured of the

confidentiality of the research and was informed of my intention

to tape record the conversation. The inmate was then

asked if he had any questions concerning either the re-

search or the investigator. Finally, he was asked if he

wished to participate in the study.

If the respondent indicated that he would take part

in the study, a date was set for the full interview as soon

as was mutually agreeable. Of the thirty-eight men, inter-

views were scheduled with twenty-two. Final interviews

were conducted with twenty inmates.8 In total, fifty-eight

preliminary and full interviews were conducted. All the

8Those who declined to participate did so for two reasons.
One was that they did not feel that they could provide
the type of information desired by the investigator; and
the second was that they were genuinely offended by my
presence at the institution. I believe that this latter
group of men is quite important sociologically. The manner
in which they justified their anger and refusal to
participate strongly implied that as an outsider who had
come "inside" to study the men there, I was merely another
person trying to label them as being different from the
rest of society. It is interesting to speculate on the
validity of this argument. For example, to what extent
does the researcher's sudden interest in the inmate
communicate to him that he is considered an "odd" sort
of fellow? Can one do research with deviants openly
without the latent labeling of them as deviant?

I think not. The fact that you are there studying them
reveals to your respondents how unusual-you consider
them to be. If this were not so, why wouldn't you be
studying students or some other group of people to whom
access is much easier?

interviewing was done within a vacant office in the

classification section of the Reception and Medical Center

at Lake Butler, Florida. The length of the interviews

ranged from one hour to three hours, and the average

session was around two hours in length. All of the inter-

views were completed in one sitting. As an example of the

type of data produced by these procedures, a sample inter-

view is reproduced in Appendix A.

Interview Content and The Process of Serendipity

As mentioned earlier, the only framework applied to

the interviewing process was the investigator's persistent

intention to organize the conversation around the needs of

the research problems. It was expected that the content

of the interviews would evolve over time during the data

collection stage of the study. However, during the inter-

viewing, a pattern of data emerged that changed the

general focus of all subsequent interviews. In short, the

interviews uncovered a "serendipity pattern" (Merton, 1957).

As originally conceived, these interviews were

directed toward understanding the impact of different forms

of legal sanctions in creating change in criminal behavior

patterns. However, as the first few interviews were

conducted, two factors emerged which significantly changed

9See Appendix B for a reproduction of the original frame
of the interviews.

the direction and focus of the research. It became in-

creasingly apparent that the only form oF meaningful

sanctioning experienced by these men was imprisonment.

Thus, these interviews could not provide data relevant to

the comparison of types of sanctions for crime. Yet, it

was also clear that exiting was manifest as a stage in the

careers of each of the respondents. This stage of exiting

from criminal behavior patterns became the new guide for

the data collection. Therefore, the organization of the

interviewing process was changed to one which closely

resembled Lemert's (1951:446) outline of the "natural

history of the deviant." The investigator's interviewing

outline as it developed is reprinted below:

A. Social background of respondent.
1. Significant events.
2. Significant others.
3. Self-concept.
4. Overview.

B. Initial acts of delinquency and crime.
1. Review above.
2. Reactions of others.
3. Reactions of self.
4. Reactions of agents of control.
5. Significant changes in life-situation.

c. Imprisonment.
1. Experience and routines.
2. Reactions of self.
3. Reactions of others.
4. Significant changes in life-situation.

D. Release.
1. Changes in behavior.
2. Changes in self-concept.
3. Reactions of others.
4. Changes in life-situation.

E. Repeat, for all significant criminal actions.

F. Overview, and open conversation.

All of the interviews were tape-recorded unless otherwise

requested by the respondent.0 Immediately after the con-

clusion of each session, the interviewer made notations

of all important nonverbal messages. The final form of the

data prior to analysis consisted of the tapes of the con-

versations, and the observational notes of the investigator

concerning the emotional and nonverbal context of the


The Question of Validity

The high degree of nonspecificity of this research

design should no:t indicate that no checks were made on the

data in terms of potential manipulations by respondents.

The respondent's statements were constantly evaluated for

internal consistency and reliabiltiy during the course of

the interview. Inconsistent accounts were questioned in

the manner most integrative with the interview situation as

it developed. Generally, this was done in one of three

ways: first, the respondent could be directly questioned;

second, the earlier information could be restated by the

10This happened only once when a respondent confided to me
for a short period of time concerning involvements with
radical political groups that he did not wish to have
recorded on tape.

interviewer and presented to the respondent for verifica-

tion or alteration; and thirdly, unconvincing statements

could be reacted to nonverbally with furrowed brow, crossed

arms, and other skeptical gestures.11

Further, common justifications for "conning" were

not present in the interviewing situation. First, partici-

pation in the study offered no advantage to the respondents.

Secondly, the investigator had access to official files

and prison "jackets" to which he could turn if manipu-

lation or exaggeration were evident. This source of

checking was clearly recognized by the inmates. A third

factor that discouraged "conning" was that the interviewer

was not in an official or advantaged position which might

indicate to the respondents that he could be used in order

to gain favors from the prison administration.

Data Processing

Approximately thirty-five hours of tape recordings

were produced by these interviews. Each recorded interview

was fully transcribed prior to the analysis of the data.

This resulted in some 600 to 700 pages of transcription,

Similarly, "body language" expressive of openness and
acceptance was consciously used by the interviewer to gain
rapport with the respondents. Specifically, postures that
included opened arms and uncrossed legs were used to
communicate positive messages to the respondents. The
author is indebted to Dr. Clair Martin for the suggestion
to use "body language" during the interview situation.

notes, and comments concerning the interviews. As is

discussed below, these data were then listened to and read

several times during the analysis of the interview results.

Phenomenological Analysis and
Data Interpretation

This section is intended to introduce concepts

and procedures used in the analysis and interpretation

of the data of the study. Hence, its position in this

chapter is purposively out of chronological order. How-

ever, an understanding of these notions is essential to

the comprehension of the later sections of the study.

It is important to recognize that the usefulness of

these concepts was determined by the data, and that they
were not imposed on the data in any a prior sense.1

At the most, the phenomenological concepts discussed

below were merely anticipatory and were not forced into

areas where there was no fit between anticipations

and the data found in the field.

Phenomenology, as used in this analysis, derives

from Schutz's (1962) synthesis of the methodological work

12For instance, the usefulness of Goffman's (1961a) notions
about moral careers emerged during the analysis of the data.

of Edmund Husserl (1931) and Max Weber (1959). Schutz

believed that sociology should be concerned with under-

standing how individuals behave in everyday life, and what

the "mundane world" means to the actor within it. Wagner

(1970:44) has clearly formulated the basic question of

phenomenological sociology.

What does this social world mean for the
observer actor within his world, and
what did he mean by his acting within it?

Like Weber's verstehen, Schutz and the phenomenological

sociologists agree that understanding is the proper goal

for sociology. Schutz further proposes, like Husserl

(1931), that such understanding is best achieved by

observing the everyday world from the perspective of the

actor as he gives it meaning. The result of the actor's

meaningful ordering of the social world as it is naturally

experienced is termed the "life-world." This study of the

life-world then is the optimum path for the sociologist

who intends to return to the thing itself.

The basic components of the life-world that are

discussed below are best defined as "sensitizing concepts"

(Blumer, 1969:153-171). They were not forced on the data

by the research design; rather they were determined by

the data. These anticipatory concepts include meaning,

consciousness, and consciousness of self.

Meanings are fundamental to social action. Weber

defines social action as behavior that is subjectively

meaningful to the individuals within a given situation.

Action is social in so far as, by
virtue of the subjective meanings
attached to it by the acting indi-
vidual (or individuals), it takes
account of the behavior of others
and is thereby oriented in its own
course (Weber, 1964:88).

Yet meaning, as an analytical concept in sociology, has

been largely ill-defined. To define meaning, one must

confront questions concerning the nature of human con-

sciousness that are fundamental to Husserlian phenome-

nology. The phenomenologist believes that consciousness

is essentially intentional (Husserl, 1931; Sartre, 1953).13

Consciousness is always consciousness of something. Gen-

erally, the object of consciousness in the direct nonthetic

experience of everyday life can be called the life-world

of the actor. This life-world is constructed by the indi-

vidual through reflection on his biography, by the use of

socially provided materials such as language and expec-

tancies, and by projection toward future ends and actions.

In sum, it is a personal interpretive construction built

upon the flow of the "vivid present" and composed of that

flow, past experience, and future possibilities.

It is the process of interpretation, or the making

of symbolic indications to oneself, that gives the parts

1The same viewpoint is apparent in the work of George
Herbert Mead (1938).

of the life-world some subjective meaning. Meaning, then,

is the product of the actor's interpretation of the every-

day world. The individual creates meaning as he defines

his position within given social situations. Further,

meaning is constructed by the intentional consciousness

of the actor; that is, the actor creates meaningful real-

ities by reflecting upon his own conscious existence in

the past, present, and future as a social being.

Things have meaning for an individual, and all

meanings are primarily subjective. However, meanings may

become intersubjective. They may be at least partially

revealed to and shared with others through the actions of

the individual, for one may communicate meanings to others

through culturally relevant signs, symbols, and actions

(Mead, 1934; 1938). The intersubjective quality of social

meanings implies that they may be visible to an observer

if he empathetically takes notice of the actions and indi-

cations of others. Yet, a one-to-one correspondence

between objectified and subjective meaning cannot be

assumed. Thus, the observer must suspend his cultural

beliefs and attempt to take-the-role-of-the-other in order

to arrive at the true meanings of things as constructed

by the actor.

Sociologists have theoretically proposed the

existence of a social self as the central component of

one's life-world. However, the phenomenological conception

of this aspect of reflective consciousness is much more

complex than the traditional social self of sociology.14

For the phenomenologist, the self is that complex of

meanings that the individual consciously attaches to

himself as he existed in the past, as he exists in the

present, and as he will have existed in the future. The

self is a history, a situation, and a possibility.

The process of reflective consciousness and self-

construction is, of course, influenced by the individual's

existence in a social world and the intersubjective mate-

rials supplied by others. And like any meaningful element

of the life-world, the self may be partially communicated

to others in one's social world. However, the self is a

process. The temporal and spatial variability of the self

stems from its interpretive origin. As the flow of the

present continues, the focus of consciousness changes and

a new perspective on past and future is constructed.

Consequently, the self is altered. The self, as with all

meaningful elements of the life-world, is created by the

given project that an actor is considering at the time.

For example, if my project involves social research, then

my self-as-a-sociologist becomes meaningful, and my self-

as-sports-fan may slip to the background of my

Here, I am referring most directly to the conception of
the self as a composite of social roles and statuses
(see, for example, Biddle and Thomas, 1966).

consciousness. In sum, the phenomenological conception of

the self emphasizes that the self is a meaningful, yet

always incomplete, construction of human consciousness as

it reflects on itself and its life-world within a given

project of action.

The idea of the self as a part of the actor's life-

world alters the general sociological definition of a

social career. Goffman has defined a "moral career" as a

standard sequence of changes in the actor's conception of

both his self and the selves of others (1961:168). To

this idea, the phenomenologist adds the importance of

changes in the'life-world. As used in this study then,

"career" refers to both changes in the actor's con-

sciousness of self and his consciousness of other life-

world elements (objects, persons, and events) as they are

relevant to the individual's project for action within a

certain social context.

The interrelated notions of life-world,15 self,

meaning and the actor's social career are the primary

conceptual tools used in the analysis of the data collected

in this study.

15Schutz (1970) has defined the life-world as the
subjective sphere of experience of the actor composed of his
consciousness of objects, others, events, and himself.

Techniques of Phenomenolooical Analysis

Phenomenological analysis attempts to describe and

produce understanding of the life-world of the actor as

it is directly experienced. It strives to uncover the

meaningful components of the consciousness of the individu-

al as they are revealed in his behavior and conversation.

The reconstruction of the subjectively meaningful world of

the actor is accomplished through the use of several spe-

cific techniques of analysis. These techniques include

phenomenological reduction, eidetic reduction, and inten-

tional analysis (see Spiegelberg, 1969).

Phenomenological reduction is a conscious return

to the nonthetic and given aspects of the life-world. It

is accomplished through the use of empathy and the

suspension of all belief in scientific and mundane presup-

postions on the part of the analyst. By placing these

beliefs in "brackets," the analyst may return to the

contents of consciousness of immediate, past, and future

experience within the actor's life-world. As defined by

Schmitt (1959-60:240),

It is called phenomenologicall' because it
transforms the world into mere phenomena.
It is called 'reduction' because it leads
us back (Latin, reducere) to the source of
meaning and existence of the experienced
world. .

In this process, the analyst's attitude is changed from

natural nonreflectivity into one of empathetic study and

reflection. As used here, the technique was applied to

reduce the interview transcripts of the experiences and

reflections of an other to the other's meaningfully con-

structed life-world. In other words, the transcripts were

read and listened to as given to the investigator.

Theoretical preconceptions were not allowed to influence

the perception of the analyst, and the transcripts were

reduced to a pure description of the experiential life-

world of the respondent. That is, the transcripts were

taken back to a description of the events and changes in

the respondent's criminal career. Through reflective

thought, intuition, and empathetic role-taking, the

analyst attempted to reach the other's life-world as it

was immediately and meaningfully experienced and con-

structed. The phenomenological objective is the thing,

itself; or, in this case,the meaningful experience of the


The second step in the analysis of the interviews

was a technique most generally referred to as eideticc

reduction." This style of analyzing data attempts to

arrive at the essential aspects of the respondents' ex-

periential life-worlds.

Eidetic reduction leads us from the
realm of facts to that of general
essences (Kocklemans, 1967:30).

This is accomplished by imaginatively and consciously

varying the components of the phenomenon in order to

discover the invariant aspects of the phenomenon. These

consistent and continuing aspects are the essential quali-

ties of the phenomenon in question.

In order to grasp an essence, we consider
a concrete experience, and then we make it
change in our thought, trying to imagine it
as effectively modified in all respects, that
which remains invariable through these
changes is the essence of the phenomena in
question (Merleau-Ponty, 1964:71).

In this research, the transcripts-as-given were examined

over and over again in order to identify the elements

within them that were shared across respondents. Thus,

the data were further reduced down to the essentially

typical elements of the experiences of the men interviewed.

The process of phenomenological analysis is

constantly aware of the import of social meanings. The

analytical procedure used to uncover the process by which

elements of one's life-world become meaningful is called

"intentional analysis." Here, the analyst uncovers the

manner in which the actor uses social signs and symbols

to constitute a meaningful phenomenon through the processes

of interpretation, conscious reflection, and conscious

projection. Meanings are fully understood only when the

analyst can explain their constitution within a given

project of action. Here intentional analysis was con-

stantly in use as I studied the transcripts in order to

understand the actor's intentional and interpretive reflec-

tion upon his situation and his possibilities for action.

Needless to say, these techniques were used

together in the analysis of the data. They were applied

in order to best realize the goal of understanding the

life-world of the respondents as it was directly experi-

enced. To do so, the data were reduced to the shared and

essential elements of the life-world of the respondents and

to the manner in which these elements were meaningfully

related to changes in the behavior of the respondents.

As Douglas (1967:256) has written:

The ideal of this approach is to go
from what people say and do in the
real-world-situation upward toward
an analysis of the patterns that can
be found in. .the meanings of their
statements and behaviors.

In this study, the life-worlds of the respondents were

explored in order to better understand the evolution of

the career of a nonprofessional property offender.


The use of qualitative data has a strong historical

tradition in sociology. In fact, the classic works of the

field from Weber to Goffman have often been produced from

so-called "soft" data. Yet, within sociology, the use of

qualitative methodologies remains controversial. I

believe that phenomenological analysis provides a radically

empirical means for studying the essential aspects of


social experience as they are relevant to the individual

himself. The results of these techniques are presented

in the following chapters of this work.




In Chapter 1, I argued that theories of criminal

behavior in sociology should adequately consider three

stages of development within criminal careers: entry,

continuation, and exiting. A special focus of this

study is the issue of exiting from criminal careers. How-

ever, in order to understand the processes involved in

changes of behavior, one must also be aware of the preceed-

ing development of those behaviors. Therefore, in this

chapter, I will describe the career development of the NPO

in order to provide a framework for the consideration of

the exiting stage of the NPO's criminal career.

Contrary to the life-history method of analysis,

one or two cases are not followed at length throughout the

study. Rather, the individual interviews were analyzed in

order to arrive at an ideal typification of the criminal

career of the NPO. The term NPO is always meant in a

generic sense relative to the men interviewed for this

study. In all instances, the findings reported here are

representative of nearly all the respondents. The

characteristics and contingencies referred to as typical

of the NPO were evident in all but one or two of the in-

dividual cases. Throughout this and the following chapters,

excerpts from the interviews are presented in order to

exemplify the shared, or essential, characteristics of the

careers of the respondents. In other words, the findings

are illustrated through the use of excerpts from cases that

are representative of career development of the typical NPO.

Each significant factor common to the respondents and their

criminal careers will be demonstrated through quotations

from the actual interviews. In the presentation of these

quotations, I have placed limited editorial comments and

contextual interpretations within brackets. These added

comments are intended to provide the reader with otherwise

unapparent background information important in understanding

a respondent's meaning.

The data collected for this study reveal the

importance of two primary "career contingencies" that

lead to the entry stage of the NPO's criminal career: (1)

a lack of strong ties to the conventional social order, and

(2) the motivating force of subjectively meaningful needs

or desires. Continuation in the career of the NPO is most

Becker (1963:24) defines a career contingency as a factor
that produces mobility from one stage or position to an-
other within a given career.

directly the result of the processes of societal reaction

and the stigma of being a known criminal. As we will see,

these findings lend strong support to the theoretical posi-

tion of the voluntaristic school.

Theoretical Groundwork

The etiology of criminal behavior and its sub-

sequent continuation as a patterned, or recurring, form of

activity has been the major focus of criminological theory.

All of the major schools of criminology have proposed

theoretical answers to the questions of entry and continua-


As reviewed in Chapter 2, deterministic theories

explain the emergence of criminal behavior by reference to

biological or sociological factors within the individual.

Initial criminal behavior is caused by either the offender's

biological propensities for deviance, or the presence of a

self-structure that produces criminality as a predictable

response to given social circumstances. These deviant

"psychological bents" are seen as the result of environ-

mental structures, social learning, and the process of

socialization. Thus, due to the internalization of deviant

values and roles, crime is compelled by the internal

structure of the actor. These theories claim that crimi-

nal behavior arises as a result of an affinity for crime

that is manifest within the actor.

Voluntaristic theories explain initial infractions

of the law by reference to factors external to the actor.

Criminal activity is described as a reasonable response to

social situations which are defined as allowing criminal

behavior. These situations are produced by an absence of

social bonding or by interpersonal conditions within a

given place at a given time. For these theorists, initial

criminal behavior is the result of the actor's decision to

use illegal action to deal with an external social situa-

tion.2 The primary general distinction between these

frameworks is that deterministic criminology explains the

emergence of criminal behavior by reference to internal

predisposing factors, while the voluntaristic school ex-

plains this emergence by focusing on the external situa-

tion of the actor.

This difference is clearly reflected in the school's

respective descriptions of the patterning of criminal be-

havior. The deterministic criminologists generally refer

to the continued existence of internal, factors to explain

continuation. It is the incorporation of a deviant self

that is described as fundamental to the-rise of patterned

criminality. The actor is a criminal and thus exhibits

Issues concerning the accuracy of specific theories
within these general approaches will be discussed later in
this chapter.

persistent criminal behavior. Anchored in his internalized

role structure, the criminal's identity compels the com-

mission of crimes. In sum, the determinists propose that

criminal behavior continues due to the existence within the

actor of a criminal self.

The external reference of the voluntaristic

school is apparent in their explanation of the continuation

stage of criminal careers. Continuation is the response

of the actor to situational conditions that are consistently

conducive to criminal action. The actor's self is normal,

and continuation is the result of the individual's

reasonable response to situations of nonrestraint, or stigma

and exclusion from legitimate activity. Criminal patterns,

like conventional actions, are rational, voluntary, and

meaningful. Voluntaristic theories explain the appearance

of recurring criminality as a result of the individual's

reasonably chosen response to given social situations that

are perceived as rewarding deviance.

The remainder of this chapter describes and

theoretically interprets the development and changes within

the criminal career of the NPO, as these events and condi-

tions are seen by the offender.3

A brief note on the concept of career is necessary here.
It is best considered as somewhat flexible and as an or-
ganizing notion for use in describing the lives of the
respondents. Second, third, and multiple careers are not
only possible, but are most probable. In this study, these

Entry into a Criminal Career

The first evidence of meaningful criminality in

the lives of the respondents usually appeared in the middle

teen years (14-18 years of age).4 Initial criminal ac-

tivity most often followed a number of more minor "troubles"

such as repeated truancy or running away from home. The

first crime committed by the respondents was universally

some form of theft. The following two excerpts from the

interviews illustrate the typical form of activity that is

the NPO's first criminal offense.

I never really had had any big troubles
before--you know, fights and things like
that, skipping school. The first thing
I did was steal. We'd break into places,
houses, steal hubcaps, things like that.

I mainly--well, we'd just do anything--
got into some trouble. Just like sort of
to have an amount of fun. Then I started
those B & E's, stores, houses, I don't
know, I was about 13 or 14 or 15.

The emergence of these early infractions can be understood

by the recognition of two factors that were consistently

mentioned by the respondents when they described their

youths. These explanatory conditions are: (1) a lack of

strong ties or bonds to the conventional social order, and

other noncriminal careers will be considered only when they
are significant factors affecting the individual's criminal

4The age range of the first official offense within the
sample was from 8 to 20 years of age.

(2) the motivating force of subjectively meaningful needs

and desires. As we shall see, these two contingencies

were accentuated and amplified through the presence of

similarly situated peers.

Bondlessness and the Situation of Entry

It is quite apparent from the data collected for

this study that as youths the respondents did not consider

themselves to be members of conventional social groups. In

their adolescense, these men experienced few meaningful

interpersonal realtionships with others who supported and

espoused conventional normative standards. This absence

of relations with others was evident to the respondents

in both familial and nonfamilial contexts.

Generally, the respondents were able to recall few

intimate relationships of care and concern with others.

For instance, although the family and the school are pri-

mary conventional institutions in the lives of most youths,

they held little significant meaning for any of the re-

spondents in this study.

My family and me, we never got
along, especially me and my father.
Matter of fact, we still don't get
along. Me and my mother, we never
had no family type of relationship.
I got a brother, but I don't claim
him--in my book, he's just no good.

And I think my biggest problem was,
I never had a real close family tie
with any of my, any of my family.
I just quit school, just wanted to

get out, tired of listening to
them teachers and everything.
Taking orders fromthem. I just
up and quit.

The lack of close-and significant relations with others in

the family and school among the respondents was paralleled by

a general isolation from conventional others within the

wider community. Typically, these men stated that they

experienced no close relational ties to others or peers

within their home neighborhoods. This relative social iso-

lation was defined as a result of physical and social mo-

bility as well as of other forms of differentiation in


I've not lived in one place long
enough to know anybody in our
neighborhood. Never stayed in one
place long enough to really know

I didn't have friends because I
guess I was always agitating, you
know, pushing them away from me.

I didn't associate with too many
people when I was coming up. I
didn't know too many people, very

Additionally, the respondents possessed no significant

behavioral investments in conformity during their early

years. Their youths were characterized by a tendency to

invest neither time nor energy in conventional aspirations

or involvements. For instance, the respondents consistently

indicated that they considered neither educational nor

occupational goals to be important considerations for them

when they were young. The following excerpts from the

interviews indicate the typical disposition of the young


I never really considered conse-
quences, only what I wanted at that
particular moment, and to hell with
the rest of it. I didn't care.

During that time, it was just something
to do. Really, it was just something
to do. There was no reason not to
(break the lawl (emphasis minef.

As these two statements indicate, the respondents also

were largely oriented to short-term goals and projects.

Further, they were also temporally uninvolved with con-

ventional activities and aspirations.

It was like I had time to be by
myself, things like this. Like,
I sometimes, I would skip school
and next thing you know, I would
be stealing something.

Finally, the respondents also related that during their

teen years they began to question the validity of conven-

tional standards and values. They gradually learned that

the legal system in particular was often hypocritical, un-

fair, and biased in favor the powers-that-be.

Poor man ain't nothing he can do,
the law, they gonna get him either
way it go. I never gave a shit my-

I didn't have no respect for the law,
just to be truthful. No kind of re-
spect for the law.

In general, then, the respondents characterized

their youths as essentially unconventional. Yet, no single

case was reflective of a youth that was essentially crimi-

nal. These men experienced their early lives as funda-

mentally unconnected to any social world. As youths, they

were generally lacking in meaningful ties to others, and

they exhibited no strong conventional aspirations or in-

volvements. They experienced no strong familial or extra-

familial relationships with others. They remembered having

no truly meaningful temporal or behavioral investments

within the conventional social order. Further, they did

not believe in the validity of conventional normative

standards. in sum, significant youthful ties to the con-

ventional world were consistently lacking. They inhabited

a life-world that was essentially characterized by bond-


My family didn't care what I did.
If I wanted to do something I
could do it, they could care less.
They loved me, but they didn't
put me under tow. If I wanted to
slip out at night time, it didn't
bother them, I could go ahead, do
what I wanted to do, they didn't
care. So I just said the hell
with it; "You all don't care about
me, I don't care about me, either."

The theoretical framework that best explains the

shared characteristics of the respondents' entries into

crime is voluntaristic criminology. More specifically,

rationalistic control theory as stated in the recent work
Hirschi (1969) receives strong support from the data.

Control theory originates in Durkheim's (1933)

description of man as inherently amoral and the allied

belief that normality is a product of the social group.

This perspective has recently been revitalized by the

emergence of modern control theory. Explicitly criticiz-

ing positivistic criminology, Matza (1964) constructed a

theory of delinquency based on the rational, or reasoning,

actor. By symbolically neutralizing his bonds to conven-

tional legal norms, the youth "drifts" into a situation

where delinquency is a possible avenue for the exercise of

will. Briar and Piliavan (1965) further developed modern

control theory through the concept of commitment or "stakes

in conformity." Finally, Hirschi (1969) formally put the

theory in order by explicating the elements of the social

bond and their significance for human action. The results

of his reserach clearly illustrate the presence of rational

motives for crime.

Our findings indicate that the period of youth for

the NPO was largely devoid of the majo-r elements of the

bond to the conventional social order. 'The young NPO was

not tied to conventionality by either attachments to

significant others who espoused conventional standards, or

by commitments and investments within conventional endeavors.

As a young man, the NPO gradually lost his confidence in the

normative standards of the conventional world. The NPO at

the entry stage of his criminal career was free from social

controls, and thus he was vulnerable to deviance.

Thus far, I have described the life-world of the

NPO at the entry stage of his criminal career. This situa-

tion is fundamentally one of "drift" or bondlessness.

Previously, both Matza (1964) and Hirschi (1969) have

stressed the import of social bonds to the conventional

moral order as a condition of behavioral conformity. With-

out the constraining effects of these bonds, the NPO may

perceive crime as a reasonable project of action. The

subjective reasons that typically lead the NPO to commit

an infraction of the law are discussed in the next section

of this chapter.

Meaningful Goals as Motivation for Entry

Lacking social controls, the respondents were tied

to neither the conventional nor the criminal world. They

were free to deviate if they perceived a meaningful reason

to do so. It is important to note that none of the respon-

dents were socialized into crime; but rather, at entry,

they were available for deviating from conventional

standards. Motivation for criminal activity was provided

for the respondents by the existence of relatively un-

restrained, yet subjectively meaningful, desires. The

choice of a criminal avenue for the satiation of these

needs was catalyzed by the presence of like-situated

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