REVISITING STEBBINS: Labeling and Commitment to Deviance

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An understanding of continuity in lines of action is crucial for middle‐range theories of deviant careers in general and labeling theory in particular. Following Becker, Goffman, and Robert Stebbins, I propose that the answer lies in a clear and adequate conceptualization of commitment processes. The goal of this paper, accordingly, is to provide such a conceptualization. In pursuing this goal, I discuss Stebbins' approach to labeling and commitment to deviance and contrast it with other treatments of commitment, in particular those of Becker, Goffman, Kanter, and Stryker. Next, I present an alternative conceptualization—a three‐fold commitment framework—as a multidimensional and generic approach. After describing the framework, I apply it to labeling and commitment to deviance, with illustrations from interviews with a former member of an outlaw motorcycle club. I conclude with a variety of suggestions for research that stem from the three‐fold framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-157
Number of pages23
JournalSociological Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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