Week 2. Becker-View - 1 CULTURE: A Sociological View I was...

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Unformatted text preview: 1 CULTURE: A Sociological View I was for some years what is called a Saturday night musician, making myself available to whoever called and hired me to play for dances and parties in groups of varying sizes, playing everything from polkas through mambos, jazz, and imitations of Wayne King. Whoever called would tell me where the job was, what time it began, and usually would tell me to wear a dark suit and a bow tie, thus ensuring that the collection of strangers he was hiring would at least look like a hand because they would all be dressed more or less alike. When we arrived at work we would introduce ourselves— the chances were, in a city the size of Chicago (Where I did much of my playing), that we were in fact strangers—and see whom we knew in common and whether our paths had ever crossed before. The drummer would assemble his drums, the others would put together their instruments and tune up, and when it was time to start the leader would announce the name of a song and a key— “Exactly Like You” in B—flat, for instance—and we would begin to play. We not only began at the same time, but also played back- ground figures that fit the melody someone else was playing and, perhaps most miraculously, ended together. No one in the audience ever guessed that we had never met until twenty minutes earlier. And we kept that up all night, as though we had rehearsed often and played together for years. In a place like Chicago, that scene might be repeated hundreds of times during a weekend. What I have just described embodies the phenomenon that so- ciologists have made the core problem of their discipline. The social sciences are such a contentious bunch of disciplines that it makes trouble to say what I think is true, that they all in fact concern themselves with one or another version of this issue—the problem of collective action, of how people manage to act together. I will not attempt a rigorous definition of collective action here, but the story of the Saturday night musicians can serve as an example of it. The example might have concerned a larger group—the em- 12/DOING THINGS TOGETHER ployees of a factory who turn out several hundred automobiles in the course of a day, say. Or it might have been about so small a group as a family. It needn’t have dealt with a casual collection of strangers, though the ability of strangers to perform together that way makes clear the nature of the problem. How do they do it? How do people act together so as to get anything done without a great deal of trouble, without missteps and conflict.> We can approach the meaning of a concept by seeing how it is used, What work it is called on to do. Sociologists use the concept of culture as one of a family of explanations for the phenomenon of concerted activity; I will consider some of the others below, in order to differentiate culture from them. Robert Redfield defined culture as “conventional understandings made manifest in act and artifact”(1941:132). The notion is that the people involved have a similar idea of things, understand them in the same. way, as having the same character and the same potential, capable of being dealt within the same way; they also know that this idea is shared, that the people they are dealing with know, just as they do, what these things are and how they can be used. Because all of them have roughly the same idea, they can all act in ways that are roughly the same, and their activities will, as a result, mesh and be coordinated. Thus, because all those musicians understood what a Saturday night job at a country club consisted of and acted accordingly, because they all knew the melody and harmony of “Exactly Like You” and hundreds of similar songs, because they knew that the others knew this as they knew it, they could play that job successfully. The concept of culture, in short, has its use for sociologists as an ex- planation of those musicians and all the other forms of concerted action for which they stand. I said that culture was not the only way sociologists explain concerted action. It often happens, for example, even in the most stable groups and traditional situations, that things happen which are not fully or even partly covered by already shared understand- ings. That may be because the situation is unprecedented—a disaster of a kind- that has never occurred before—or because the people in the group come from such a variety of backgrounds that, though they all have some idea about the matter at hand and all speak a common language, they do not share understandings. That can easily happen in stratified societies, in ethnically differentiated so- cieties, in situations where different occupational groups meet. Of course, people in such situations will presumably share some un- Culture: A Sociological View/ 13 derstandings which will form the basis of discussion and mediation as they work out what to do. If the Saturday night musicians had not shared as much knowledge as they did, they would have sat down to discuss what kind of music they would play, sketched out parts, and so on. They would have had to negotiate, a process I will consider more fully below. Culture, however, explains how people act in concert when they do share understandings. It is thus a consequence (in this kind of sociological thinking) of the existence of a group of acting people. It has its meaning as one of the resources people draw on in order to coordinate their activities. In this it differs from most anthro— pological thinking in which the order of importance is reversed, culture leading a kind of independent existence as a system of pat- terns that makes the existence of larger groups possible. Most conCeptions of culture include a great deal more than the spare definition I offered above. But I think, for reasons made clear later, that it is better to begin with a minimal definition and then to add other conditions when that is helpful. Many people would insist that, if we are to call something culture, it must be traditional, of long standing, passed on from generation to generation. That would certainly make the concept unavailable as an explanation of the Saturday night musician. While we might conCeivably say that these men were engaging in a tra— ditional cultural activity, since a tradition of musicians playing for the entertainment of others goes back centuries and the American tradition of professional musicians playing for dances and parties is decades old, they were not doing it the way people who play for peasant parties in Greece or Mexico do, playing songs their grandparents played, perhaps on the same instruments. No, they were playing songs no more than twenty or thirty years old, songs their grandfathers never knew; in fact, few of their grandfathers had been musicians in whatever countries they came from, and, by becoming musicians themselves, these men were doing some- thing untraditional in their families (and usually something not desired by their families either). They, of course, had learned to do many of the things they were doing from others who were slightly older, as I had learned many of the tricks of being a weekend musician when I was fifteen from people as old as sev— enteen or eighteen, who had in turn learned them from still older people. But, still, they did not know how to do what they were doing because it was traditional. 14/D01NG THINGS TOGETHER Many other people would insist that, if we are to call something culture, it must be part of a larger system, in which the various parts not only cohere in the sense of being noncontradictory, but, more than that, harmonize in the sense of being difierent versions of the same underlying themes. Such people would not use the term “cul- ture” to describe the patterns of cooperation of the weekend mu— sicians unless those patterns were also reflected in the music they played, the clothing they wore, the way they spent their leisure time, and so on. But none of that was true because they were not just musicians, and much of what they did reflected understandings they had acquired by participating in other social arenas in which the musicians’ culture was irrelevant and vice versa. Nor, in any event, did they play what they might have played if they had been free to express their cultural understandings, for what they played was largely what they were paid to play (polkas on Friday, mambos on Saturday). And many people would insist that my example is misleading to begin with, for the kinds .of coherence that constitute “real” culture occur only at the level of the whole society. But if we connect culture to activities people carry on with one another, then we have to ask what all the members of a whole society do, or what they all do together, that requires them to share these general understandings. There are such things, but I think they tend to be rather banal and not at the level usually meant in discussions of general cultural themes. Thus, we all use the money of our society and know how many of the smaller units make one of the larger ones. Less trivially, we probably share understandings abOut how to behave in public, the things Edward T. Hall and Erving Goffman (1971) have written about—how close to stand to someone when we talk or how much space someone is entitled'to in a public place, for example. But, even if for the sake of the argument we-imagine that some substantial body of such materials exists, as it might in a relatively undiffer— entiated or rural society, that would not help us understand how the weekend musicians did their trick, and we would need some other term for what they were able to do and the web of shared understandings they-used to do it. Other people have other requirements for what can be called culture, all of which can be subjected to similar criticisms. Some think that culture, to be “really” culture, must be built in some deep way into the personalities of the people who carry it; others require that culture consist of “basic values,” whatever might be meant by Culture: A Sociological View/ 15 that. In neither case would the activities of the Saturday night musicians qualify as culture, however, if those definitional require- ments were observed. Normally, of course, we can define terms any way we want, but in the case of culture, several things seem to limit our freedom. The two most important are the quasi ownership of the term by an— thropologists and the ambiguity of the word with respect to the problem of “high culture,” to which I will return later. Anthropol- ogists, and most other people, regard culture as anthropology’s key concept and assume that the discipline is therefore entitled to make the definition. But anthropologists do not agree on a definition of culture; indeed, they differ spectacularly among themselves, as a famous compendium by Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn (1963) demonstrates. That did not‘dissuade Kroeber and Talcott Parsons (1958) from signing a jurisdictional agreement (like those by which the building trades decide how much of the work car— penters can do and where electricians must take over) giving “cul— ture” to anthropology and “societf’ to sociology. But the social sciences, unlike the building trades, have not respected the deal their leaders made. Which of these additional criteria, if any, should be incorporated into the definition of culture I have already given? Do we need any of them? Do we lose anything by using the most minimal definition of culture, as the shared understandings that people use to coor- dinate their activities? I think not. We have an inclusive term which describes not only the Saturday night musicians and the way they accomplish their fear of coordination, but all the other combinations of attributes that turn up in real life, raising questions about when they go together and when they do not. Much depends iOn what kind of archetypal case you want the definition to cover, sinCe a small Stone Age tribe living at the head- waters of the Amazon, which has never been in contact-with Eu— ropean civilization, is obviously quite different from such typical products of twentieth-century urban America as the weekend mu- sicians. The kinds of collective action required in the two situations differ enormously, and, consequently, the kinds of shared under- standings participants can rely on vary concomitantly. Many an- thropologists have a kind of temperamental preference for the sim- plicity, order, and predictability of less complicated societies, in which everyone knows what everyone else is supposed to do, and in which there is a “design for living.” If you share that preference, 16/DOING THINGS TOGETHER then you can turn culture into an honorific term by denying it to those social arrangements which do not “deserve” it, thereby making a disguised moral judgment about those ways of life. But that leaves a good part of modern life, not just the Saturday night musicians, out of the cultural sphere altogether. The Cultural Process How does culture—shared understanding—help people to act collectively? People have ideas about how a certain kind of activity might be carried on. They believe others share these ideas and will act on them if they understand the situation in the same way. They believe further that the people they are interacting with believe that they share these ideas too, so everyone thinks that everyone else has the same idea about how to do things. Given such circumstances, - if everyone does what seems appropriate, action will be sufficiently coordinated for practical purposes. Whatever was under way will get done—the meal served, the child dealt with, the job finished, all well enough so that life can proceed. The cultural process, then, consists of people doing something in line with their understanding of what one might best do under the given circur'nstances. Others, recognizing what was done as appropriate, will then consult their notions of what might be done and do something that seems right to them, to which others in return will respond similarly, and so on. If everyone has the same general ideas in mind, and does something congruent with that image or collection of ideas, then what people do will fit together. If we all know the melody and harmony of “Exactly Like You,” and improvise accordingly, whatever comes out will sound reasonable to the players and listeners, and a group of perfect strangers will sound like they know what they are doing. Consider another common situation. A man and woman meet and find each other interesting. At some stage of their relationship, they may consider any of a variety of ways of organizing their joint activities; Early on, one or the other might propose that they “have a date.” Later, one or the other might, subtly or forthrightly, suggest that they spend the night together. Still later, they might try “living. together.” Finally, they might decide to “get married.” They might skip some of these stages and they might not follow that progres— sion, which in contemporary America is a progression of increas- ineg formal commitment. In other societies and at other times, of Culture: A Sociological View/17 course, the stages and the relationships would differ. But,'whatever their variety, insofar as there are names for those relationships and stages, and insofar as most or all of the people in a society know those names and have an idea of what they imply as far as continuing patterns of joint activity are concerned, then the man and woman involved will be able to organize What they do by referring to those guideposts. When one or the other suggests one of these possibil- ities, the partner will know, more or less, What is being suggested without requiring that every item be spelled out in detail, and the pair can then organize their daily lives, more or less, around the patterns suggested by these cultural images. What they do from day to day will of course not be completely covered by the details of that imagery, although they will be able to decide many details by consulting it together and adapting what it suggests to the problem at hand. None of these images, for instance, really establishes who takes the garbage out or what the details of their sexual activity may be, but the images do, in general, suggest the kind of commitments and obligations involved on both sides in a wide range of practical matters. That is not the end of the matter, though. Consider a likely contemporary complication: the woman, divorced, has small chil- dren who live with her. In this case, the couple’s freedom of action is constrained, and no cultural model suggests what they ought to do about the resulting difiiculties. The models for pairing and for rearing children suggest incompatible solutions, and the partners have to invent something. They have to improvise. This raises a major problem in the theory of culture I am pro— pounding. Where does culture come from? The typical cultural explanation of behavior takes the culture as given, as preexisting the particular encounter in which it comes into play. That makes sense. Most of the cultural understandings we use to organize our daily behavior are there before we get there, and we do not propose to change them or negotiate their details with the people we en— counter. We do not propose a new economic system every time we go to the grocery store. But those understandings and ways of doing things have not always been there. Most of us buy our food in supermarkets today, and that requires a different way of shopping from the corner grocery stores of a generation ago. How did the new culture of supermarkets arise? One answer is that the new culture was imposed by the inventors of the concept, the owners of the new stores which embodied it. 18/DOING THINGS TOGETHER They created the conditions under which change was more or less inevitable. People might have decided not to shop in supermarkets and chain stores, but changing conditions of urban life caused so many of them to use the new markets that the corner grocery, the butcher shop, the poultry and. fish stores disappeared in all but a few areas. Once that happened, supermarkets became the only prac- tical possibility left, and people had to invent new ways of serving themselves. So, given new conditions, people invent culture. The way they do it was suggested by William Graham Sumner a century ago in Polk- ways (1907). We can paraphrase him this way. A group finds itself sharing a common situation andcommon problems. Various mem- bers of the group experiment with possible solutions to those prob- lems and report their experiences to their fellows. In the course of their collective discussion, the members of the group arrive at a def- inition of the situation, its problems and possibilities, and develop a consensus as to the most appropriate and efficient ways of behaving. This consensus thenceforth constrains the activities of individual members of the group, who will probably act on it,_ given the op— portunity. In other words, new situations provoke new behavior. But people generally find themselves in company when dealing with these new situations,.and since they arrive at their solutions collectively, each assumes that the others share them. The beginnings of a new shared understanding thus come into play quickly and easily. The ease with which new cultural understandings arise and persist varies. It makes a difference, for one thing, how large a group is involved in making the new understandings. At one extreme, as I have noted, every mating couple, every new family, has to devise its own culture to cover'the contingencies of daily interaction. At the other, consider what happens during industrialization when hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—of people are brought from elsewhere to work in the new factories. They have to come from elsewhere because the area could not support that many people before industrialization. As a result, the newcomers differ in culture from the, people already there, and they differ as well in the role they play in the new industries, usually coming in at the bottom. When industrialization takes place on a large scale, not only does a new culture of the workplace have to be devised but also a new culture of the cities in which they all end up living—a new expe- rience for everyone involved. Culture: A Sociological View/ 19 The range of examples suggests, as I mean it to, that people create culture continuously. Since no two situations are alike, the cultural solutions available to them are only approximate. Even in the simplest societies, no two people learn quite the same cultural material; the chance encounters of daily life provide suflicient vari- ation to ensure that. No set of cultural understandings, then, pro— vides a perfectly applicable solution to any problem people have to solve in the comse of their day, and they therefore must remake those solutions, adapt their understandings to the new situation in the light of what is different about it. Even the most conscious and determined efiort to keep things as they are would necessarily in- volve strenuous efiorts to remake and reinforce understandings so as to keep them intact in the face of what was changing. There is an apparent paradox here. On the one hand, culture persists and antedates the participation of particular people in it: indeed, culture can be said to shape the outlooks of people who participate in it. But cultural understandings, on the other hand, have to be reviewed and remade continually, and in the remaking they change. This is not a true paradox, however: the understandings last because they change to deal with new situations. People continually refine them, changing some here and some there but never changing all of them at once. The emphasis on basic values and coherence in the definition of culture arises because of this process. In making the new versions of the old understandings, people naturally rely on what they already have available, so that consciously planned innovations and revolutions seem, in historical perspective, only small variations on what came before. To summarize, how culture works as a guide in organizing col— lective action and how it comes into being are really the same process. In both cases, people pay attention to what other people are doing and, in an attempt to mesh what they do with those others, refer to what they know (or think they know) in common. 80 culture is always being made, changing more or less, acting as a point of reference for people engaged in interaction. Culture and Cooperation What difference does it make that people continually make culture in the way I have described? The most'irnportant consequence is 20/DoiNG THINGS TOGETHER that they can, as a result, cooperate easily and efl‘iciently in the daily business of life, without necessarily knowing each other very well. Most occupations, for example, operate on the premise that the people who work in them all know certain procedures and certain ways of thinking about and responding to typical situations and problems, and on the premise that such knowledge will make it possible to assemble them to work on a common project withOut prior team training. Most professional schools operate on the theory that the education they offer provides a basis for work cooperation among people properly trained anywhere. In fact, people probably learn the culture which makes occupational cooperation possible in the workplace itself. It presents them with problems to solve that are common to people in their line of work, and provides a group of more experienced workers who can suggest solutions. In some occupations, workers change jobs often and move from workplace to workplace often (as do the weekend musicians), and they carry what they have learned elsewhere with them. That makes it easy for them to refine and update their solutions frequently, and thus to develop and maintain an occupational culture. Workers who do not move but spend their work lives in one place may develop a more idiosyncratic work culture, peculiar to that place and its local prob— lems—a culture of IBM or Texas Instruments or (because the process is not limited to large firms) Joe’s Diner. At a different level of cooperative action, Golfman (1971) has described cultural Understandings which characterize people’s be- havior in public. For instance, people obey a norm of “civil inat— tention,” allowing each other a privacy which the material circum- stances of, say, waiting for a bus do not provide. Since this kind of privacy is what Americans and many others find necessary before they can feel comfortable and safe in public (Hall [1958] has shown how these rules differ in other cultures), these understandings make it possible for urban Americans to occupy crowded public spaces without making each other uneasy. The point is not trivial, because violations of these rules are at least in part responsible for the currently common fear that some public areas are “not safe,” quite apart from whatever assaults have taken place in them. Most people have no personal knowledge of the alleged assaults, but they ex.- perience violationof what might be called the “Goffman rules” of public order as the prelude to danger and do not go to places which make them feel that way. Culture: A Sociological View/21 Cultural understandings, if they are to be effective in the orga— nization of public behavior, must be very widely held. That means that people of otherwise varying class, ethnic, and regional cultures must learn them routinely, and must learn them quite young, be- cause even small children can disrupt public order very effectively. That requires, in turn, substantial agreement among people of all segments of the society on how children should be brought up. If no such agreement exists or if some of the people who agree in principle do not manage to teach their children the necessary tlu'ngs, public order breaks down, as it often does. In another direction, cultural understandings affect and “social— ize” the internal experiences people have. By applying understand- ings they know to be widely accepted to their own perhaps inchoate private experiences, people learn to define those internal experiences in ways which allow them to mesh their activities relevant to those topics with those of others with whom they are involved. Consider the familiar example of falling in love. It is remarkable that one of the experiences we usually consider private and unique—falling in love—actually has the same character for most people who expe— rience it. That is not to say that the experience is superficial, but rather that when people try to understand their emotional responses to others, one available explanation of what they feel is the idea, common in Western culture, of romantic love. They learn that idea from a variety of sources, ranging from the mass media to discussion with their peers, and they learn to see their own experiences as embodiments of it. Because most people within a given culture learn to experience love in the same way from the same sources, two people can become acquainted and successfully fall in love with each other—not an easy trick. Because shared cultural understandings make it easy to do things in certain ways, moreover, their existence favors those ways of doing things and makes other ways of achieving the same end, which might be just as satisfactory to everyone involved, correspondingly less likely. Random events which might produce innovations de- sirable to participants occur infrequently. In fact, even when the familiar line of activity is not exactly to anyone’s liking, people continue it simply because it is what everyone knows and knows that everyone else knows, and thus is what offers the greatest like- lihood of successful collective action. Everyone knows, for instance, that it would be better to standardize the enormous variety of screw ZZ/Domo THINGS TOGETHER threads in this country, or to convert the United States to the metric system.-But the old ways are the ones we know, and, of course, in this instance, they are built into tools and machines which would be diflicult and costly to change. Many activities exhibit that inertia, and they pose a problem that sociologists have been interested in for many years: which elements of a society or culture are most likely to change? William Fielding Ogburn (1922), for instance, proposed sixty years ago that material culture (screw threads) changed more quickly than social organization, and that the resultant “lag” could be problematic for human society. A final consequence: the existence of culture makes it possible for people to plan their own lives. We can plan most easily for a known future, in which the major organizational features of society turn out to be what we expected them to be and what we made allowances for in our planning. We need, most importantly, to predict the ac— tions of other people and of the organizations which consist of their collective actions. Culture makes those actions, individual and col- lective, more predictable than they would otherwise be. People in traditional societies may not obey in every detail the complex mar- riage rules held out to them, but those rules supply a sufficiently clear guide for men and women to envision more or less accurately when they will marry, what resources will be available to them when they do, and how the course of their married life will proceed. In modern industrial sdcieties, workers can plan their careers better when they know what kinds of work situations they will find themselves in and what their rights and obligations at various ages and career stages will be. Few people can make those predictions successfully in this country any more, which indicates that cultural understandings do not always last the twenty or thirty years nec- essary for such predictability to be possible. When that happens, people do not know how to prepare themselves for their work lives and do not receive the benefits of their earlier investments in hard work. People who seemed to be goofing off or acting irrationally, for example, sometimes make windfall profits _as the work world comes to need just those combinations of skills and experiences that they acquired while not following a “sensible” career path. As tech- nical and organizational innovations make new skills more desirable, new career lines open up which were not and could not have been predicted ten years earlier. The first generation of computer pro- grammers benefited from that kind of good luck, as did the first generation of drug researchers, among others. Culture: A Sociological View/23 High Culture In every society, some of the understandings we have been talking about are thought to be more important, more noble, more imbued with the highest aspirations or achievements of that society. For hundreds of years, Western societies have given that kind of privi— leged position to what some regard as “high culture” and what others regard as “culture” without a qualifying adjective—art, re- flective thought, philosophy. These pursuits are generally opposed to more manual occupations and to those connected with industry and commerce, although the growth of science and the commer— cialization of art in more recent times have created substantial areas of ambiguity. It seems obvious, without Thorstein Veblen to point it out, that these judgments reflect the relative prestige of those segments of society which more often engage in or patronize those pursuits. They are the hobbies, the playthings of political and re- ligious leaders as well as of people of power and privilege in general, and it is a good sociological question whether they receive their mama from the power of those interested in them or whether they lend some portion of that mam; to those supporters. How do these areas of cultural understanding differ from the more mundane examples I addressed earlier? They have a better reputation, of course, but is the basis for that reputation discernible in them or could any set of concerns and activities achieve that special estate? That is an enormously complicated question which I am not going to answer in a few words. It is enough to ask, from the point of view assumed here, what kinds of activities, pursued by whom, follow from the existence of these understandings. Who can do what together as a result of their existence? One answer is that, in Western societies originally at least, cul— turally reputable activities are carried on by specialists who make a profession of them. Those professions gather around them a special world—a network of people who collaborate in the production, distribution, and celebration of “high” culture—and that collabo- ration is made possible by the kinds of cultural understandings I have been discussing throughout this paper. In addition, the people who cooperate in these ventures regard the work they do as having special value. “Art” is an honorific category, a word applied to productions that a society decides to treat as especially valuable. A great deal of work that seems to share the observable qualities of what comes to be called high art never 24/DOING THINGS TOGETHER earns that distinction, and that suggests that the diEerence does nor lie in the work so honored but rather in the process of honoring. We can easily observe, furthermore, that the same objects and events earn the label of “art” on some occasions and not others, often migrating back and forth across the dividing line as fashions change. (I have discussed these matters at length in Art Worlds [1982].) High culture, then, consists of work recognized as belonging to an honored category of cultural understandings by the people who have the power to make that determination and to have it accepted by others. We may be able to devise systematic criteria that will identify work of superior quality, but it is unlikely that the work we can distinguish in that way will be the same as the work legi~ timated as high culture by the institutions that make that decision for any society. Thinking of high culture this way suggests the leveling impulse contained in most systematic sociological analysis. Basic social pro- cesses, such as the development of common ways of looking at things, usually cross the honorific lines drawn in a society. Dis- cussing culture in this fashiOn may seem awkward or impudent, but the warrant for doing it comes fromthe increased understanding the procedure gives us of the prOcesses that lie under all our activ— ities, honorable and‘otherwise. 2 DIALOGUE WITH HOWARD s. BECKER (1970) An Interview Conducted by julius Debro The now defunct School of Criminology of the University of Cali ornia at Berkeley used to publish a student-edited journal called Issues in Criminology. It ran a series of interview with people known in the field of criminology, and included me because I had written Outsiders, con- sidered an important statement of the “labeling theory” of deviance. Julius Debro, then a student at the school, interviewed me in my home in San Francisco in the spring of1970 (I was, during that year, a fellow at the Center forAdvanced Studies in Behavioral Science in nearby Palo Alto). When undergraduates who “have to write a term paper” about me write or call for biographical materials (one desperate student simply said “Please send all information”) I send them this. It only gives partial help, since it stops abruptly in 1970. I have amplified and revised many of the ideas, contained here in later work and have updated the story somewhat in Becker 1985, pp. 90—107. Debro: Dr. Becker, how did you become a sociologist? Becker: I entered sociology by accident. I was going to the University of Chicago College. You graduated from that college at the end of die second year of conventional college, then you had a bachelor’s degree, and if you wanted a master’s degree you went three more years. Actually, I was playing the piano; I intended to be a musician. I was quite young and my father thought I should continue school. The question was, what should I study? I thought about going into English literature because I enjoyed reading stories. But that spring I read Black Metropolis (Cayton and Drake 1945) and that really turned me on. One of the things that turned me on was the eth— nographic detail. If you know that book, you know that it gives you a feel for things in that area which no one person in that area ...
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Week 2. Becker-View - 1 CULTURE: A Sociological View I was...

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