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Providing a conceptually coherent framework for approaching the study of deviance as an ongoing feature of the human community, the authors pay special attention to the many theaters of operation in which people come together and engage one another with respect to morality and deviance.

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The Deviant Mystique

Recognizing that audience definitions of deviance are pivotal to community notions of reality and actual interaction, consideration is given to the interrelated processes of defining deviance, identifying deviants, regulating deviance informally and formally, and experiencing treatment and disinvolvement. This thoughtful consideration serves to shed new light on the mystique that has been created around ideas about deviance.

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Human Knowing and ActingTheaters of Operation: Perspectives and PracticesLabeling Deviants: Forming and Coordinating AssociationsSolitary Deviance: Handling Deviance InformallyOrganizational Agendas: Maintaining Control AgenciesAssuming Office: Control Agents at WorkExperiencing Disinvolvement: Ethnographic Examinations of Community Life.

This book provides a nice research agenda for readers interested in conducting a symbolic interactionist study of deviance, without succuming to the deviant mystique. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this deceptively simple position.

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As Rosaldo has argued in his work Culture and Truth , every position involves a mixture of insight and blindness. To the extent that we locate ourselves as theorists and students of the human condition, we can, to some degree, influence our insight by privileging various forms of knowing and being known.

If we seek to know the lived experience of those whose lives are touched by gambling such as practitioners, family members, confederates, or secondary-aid professionals , there is no substitute for engaging the world of the other. Field research is time-consuming and disagreeable Wax, Field research, as problem-solving activity, involves making pragmatic adjustments to the specifics of the field setting Grills, The payoff for all this grief is a rich tapestry that weaves multiple voices into a singular text while preserving the integrity of the various speakers that make the whole.

To know gambling as a lived experience one must know gamblers — their passions, principles, hustles, selves, and relationships. Regrettably, much of what passes for research on deviant behaviour has little to do with the activities, perspectives, life-worlds, or relationships that accompany deviant involvements. Rather, social scientists have distanced themselves from an authentic interest in the other.

In his wonderfully presented and researched volume Inventing Criminology , Piers Beirne argues convincingly that, with the exception of the period of research to which The Chase belongs, modern criminology has been dominated by positivistic thought.

Involvements, Realities, and Regulation

While it is most certainly the case that our positivist colleagues view human actors as more determined than determining, few are so committed to their position as to reject the juristic traditions which allow for some version of free will, the possibility of crimes of intention, and the notion that actors select from lines of action. As Beirne summarizes:.

In the soul of Quetelet's criminal, as in that of Victor Hugo's ex-convict Jean Valjean, in Les Miserables , there dwelled a primitive spark, a divine element, incorruptible in this world and immortal in the next, which could be kindled, lit up, made radiant by good, and which evil could never entirely extinguish Beirne, , p. Such attempts to preserve the human individual from the tyranny of positivism's own renderings of causality simply serve to embrace a metaphysical position that is unsatisfying and, in the last instance, inconsistent with understanding deviance as human endeavour.

This brief discussion of 19th century positivism is included here for two rather central purposes. First, the dominant model within current gambling research posits that gambling is caused by external factors, which render the life-world of the practitioner irrelevant for the understanding of gambling practices. Second, positivism's prioritization of the social scientist as moral entrepreneur permeates those traditions that define gambling in negative or risk-based terms.

TECHGNOSIS, Technology and The Human Imagination

This is not to suggest that gambling activities cannot be accompanied by unwelcome outcomes for practitioners and others who are directly and indirectly implicated in their activities. The financial implications of gambling, the illegal dimensions of gambling activities, the informal and formal sanctions that may accompany gambling, and the relational and interactional results of the gambling life may hold significant consequences that limit life chances.

However, the recognition that gambling may be accompanied by real harms does not logically move one to models based upon pathologies. While positivists have applied social pathologies to gambling behaviour, others have developed models based upon individual pathologies. Notable here is the extension of the disease model of addiction to gambling behaviour captured within the Gambler's Anonymous tradition e.

I began this section by arguing for attentiveness to the position of the researcher. There is no substitute for intimacy when one is genuinely interested in the world of gamblers — their commitments, activities, relationships, undertakings, and involvements.

The Deviant Mystique by Robert Prus, Scott Grills - Praeger - ABC-CLIO

When one attributes to practitioners the possibility of authentic action, then a genuine analytic interest in their life as it is lived follows. When, however, the practitioner is framed as an instrument of some pathogen, be it structural, biological, or psychological, the position of the analyst is inextricably altered.

I do not believe I overstate the case when I suggest that a consequence of positivism's dominance over the study of deviance and criminology is that we know comparatively little about deviance in a community context. Over time the words have changed — progressive, positive, reform, participatory action — but wherever the researcher is more interested in enacting their version of the good life than knowing the world of the other, the practitioner of deviance becomes a target of moral entrepreneurial interest. This relationship may further the researcher's agenda as an agent of control, but it rarely sheds light on the human condition.

An intimate familiarity with the world of practitioners of deviance allows for a deep understanding of the perspectives that members bring to their activities.

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Of particular interest are understandings of social action that serve to make activities reasonable and reportable for all practical purposes Garfinkel, The acquisition of perspectives that support deviant involvements can be central to facilitating ongoing involvements in specific activities. At times, the definition of the situation which participants bring to their activities rather centrally defines the activity and, when integrated into a complex understanding of deviance as social action, alters the way in which we understand the life-world of practitioners.

I write here of sensitizing concepts that define the lived experience of practitioners. While a complete inventory of such concepts is well beyond the scope and interest of this essay, I offer two modest illustrations. Sykes and Matza's concept of neutralization alters the way in which juvenile delinquency is framed. By alerting researchers to the reality that juvenile offenders often support the very community expectations they violate, Sykes and Matza turned the notion of rule violation on its head.

Partial and full defense of crimes hinges on neutralization strategies. Self-defense, duress, drunkenness, and factual mistakes are all neutralization techniques that are recognized by the courts as defenses to crime. Any resulting deviance designation may have more to do with audience acceptance or rejection of the defense for rule-breaking behaviour than with general support for certain expectations of behaviour.

Katz' volume Seductions to Crime includes another fine illustration of the importance of developed, perspectivally based deviance research. From an external, rationalist perspective, gambling activities may be defined as self-defeating, immoral, or built upon flawed understandings of randomness, chance and probability. Lesieur makes an important distinction between gambling as entertainment and gambling with the expectation to win.

In the latter instance, the instrumentality associated with gambling is financial advantage. When this does not occur and the gambler gambles to get even, the chase begins. Those who attend to long-term gains and losses and become locked in to the longer term chase are cast as compulsive gamblers.

Lesieur's presentation of gambling allows for the same activities to be defined in multiple ways. While slots may be defined in entertainment or more financially instrumental terms, it is the commitment to the chase — to get-even strategies, to closing the gap on debt — which is the defining perspectival framework of the compulsive gambler. Here, compulsion is cast relative to the definition of the situation: This framing or reframing of gambling activities relative to the chase illustrates the importance of attending to practitioners' understandings of their activities, their intentionalities, and their work developing accounts of gambling activities.

Importantly, Lesieur's work resists the notion one which is all too common in deviance research that deviance lies, somehow, within the act or object of the researcher's interest: This position denies the work that goes into making the social world meaningful. Lesieur's is a richer understanding for it requires that we are open to the notion that gambling activity may simultaneously be understood as entertainment, a short chase to pay a bill or two, an integrated part of a larger and more developed gambling strategy, intriguing, worrisome, problematic or fascinating.

These multiple orientations to the very same act may be held by multiple participants in the same setting and by individuals over time. My point is not so much that perspectives matter for they most certainly do , but that deviance, as a feature of human group life, is most profitably understood in a community context. This requires an interest in the multiple meanings that come to be associated with an activity and the pragmatic implications of attention or inattention to such definitions for practitioners and others.


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Researchers who prefer to substitute their own understanding of the social world for that of participants will, necessarily, construct concepts considerably less helpful than those grounded in everyday life which make meaningful the world of the other. I confess to having a weakness for beautiful, little ideas that change the way we see our worlds. In this text, Becker offers the deceptively simple assertion that sequential models of deviant behaviour are richer than simultaneous ones. Rather than understanding deviance as an end, it is more helpful to understand deviance in involvement terms.

Involvements will vary over time and may be best understood in duration or career terms. For example, the interests and intentionalities that take one person to the racetrack for the first time are often distinct from those of another person who organizes his or her activities more centrally around betting on horse races. Framing deviant activity in these terms allows for the development of a generic model of involvements or career contingencies. Instead, I offer this much more modest summary. Lesieur's work recognizes the unevenness and uncertainties of initial involvements.

The action accompanying card, sport and horse gambling is such that some participants come to construct preparatory activities, identities, relationships and strategies around particular enterprises.

Others are more apt to seek out action in multiple settings. The extent to which participants will come to develop commitments to gambling is quite variable. Participation in gambling may not move much beyond initial interests, curiosities, fascinations or entertainment-oriented considerations.

The move from initial involvement to continuing involvements is uncertain at best. Failure to manage the multiple contingencies that accompany continuing involvements may disqualify or otherwise impede continuing participation. For example, the definition of gambling activities in more favourable terms e.