THE NONPROFESSIONAL PROPERTY OFFENDEq:
A STUDY 1; PHENOMENOLOGICAL SOCIOLOGY
Thomas M. leisenh2e der
A DISSERTATION PRESENTEJ TO THE GRADUATE COUIJiCIL
OF THE VARSITY Frl
IN PARTIAL FULFILLIlENT OF Tr"E REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVEiP.S!ITY OF FLORl DA
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.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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
CHAPTER 2 THEORETICAL CRIMINOLOGY:
ASSUMPTIONS AND ARGUMENTS . . . 7
Introduction . . . . . . 7
Deterministic Criminology and Sociology 9
Overview. . . . . . . . .. 23
Voluntaristic Criminology and Sociology 24
Overview. . . . . . . .. . 43
Career Development in Criminological
Theory. . . ... . . . . . 44
CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY: PHENOMENOLOGICAL
ANALYSIS . . . . . .. . . 47
Phenomenological Sociology. . . .. 47
Analytical Stages . . . . . 50
Data Collection and Field Procedures. 52
Phenomenological Analysis and Data
Interpretation. . . . . . ... 66
Summary . . . . . ... . . 75
CHAPTER 4 ENTRY AND CONTINUATION: A PROFILE OF
THE NONPROFESSIONAL PROPERTY OFFENDER 77
Introduction . . . . . . 77
Entry into a Criminal Career. . . . 82
Continuation: Initial Considerations 94
TABLE OF CONTENTS CONTINUED
CHAPTER 5 INCARCERATION: THE ARCHETYPE OF
LABELING AND ITS EFFECTS. . . ... 109
Introduction ...... ... . .. 109
The Prison World. .. . .. . . 1ll
Summary . . . . .. . .. 134
CHAPTER 6 THE SEMIPROFESSIONAL PROPERTY OFFENDER. 138
Introduction . . . . . . 138
The Reentry Situation: Going Home?. . 138
Becoming a Semiprofessional .... ... 148
Summary . . . . . . . . 162
CHAPTER 7 "GOING STRAIGHT:" SUCCESS AND FAILURE. 164
Introduction .. . . . . . 164
Attempts at Exiting . . . . . 166
Summary . . . . . . . . 202
CHAPTER 8 CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS. ... . 204
Descriptive Findings .. . . ... 205
Theoretical Findings. . . . . 210
Implications ... . . . . . 221
Epilogue . . . . . . 227
APPENDICES . .... . . . . . . . 232
APPENDIX A: SAMPLE INTERVIEW . .. 233
APPENDIX B: ORIGINAL INTERVIEWING
FRAME. . . . ... 260
BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . .... . 262
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . . 275
LIST OF FIGURES
FIGURE NO. Page
1 THE CAREER DEVELOPMENT OF THE
OFFENDER. . . . . . . . . 212
2 VOLUNTARISTIC CRIMINOLOGY AS A
GENERAL MODEL OF CRIMINAL
CAREERS . . . . . . . ... 219
3 THE CAREER PATHS OF THE NON-
PROFESSIONAL PROPERTY OFFENDER . .. . 222
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
THE NONPROFESSIONAL PROPERTY OFFENDER:
A STUDY IN PHENlOMENOLOG]CAL SOCIOLOGY
Thomas M. Heisenhelder
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-
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 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.
THEORETICAL CRIMINOLOGY: ASSUMPTIONS AND ARGUMENTS
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
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
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
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
We see. .that anomics are consistently
more apt to engage in deviant behavior
than non-anomics. .anomics are more
vulnerable to pressures for deviance
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
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
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
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
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
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
. 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
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
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.
METHODOLOGY: PHENOMENOLOGICAL ANALYSIS
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
S.place 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
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;
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-
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-
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.
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.
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.
1. Experience and routines.
2. Reactions of self.
3. Reactions of others.
4. Significant changes in life-situation.
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.
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
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
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
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
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-
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.
ENTRY AND CONTINUATION: A PROFILE OF THE NON-
PROFESSIONAL PROPERTY OFFENDER
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.
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
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