What About Mozart? What About Murder?: Reasoning From Cases

Paperback | August 22, 2014

byHoward S. Becker

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In 1963, Howard S. Becker gave a lecture about deviance, challenging the then-conventional definition that deviance was inherently criminal and abnormal and arguing that instead, deviance was better understood as a function of labeling.  At the end of his lecture, a distinguished colleague standing at the back of the room, puffing a cigar, looked at Becker quizzically and asked, “What about murder? Isn’t that really deviant?” It sounded like Becker had been backed into a corner. Becker, however, wasn’t defeated! Reasonable people, he countered, differ over whether certain killings are murder or justified homicide, and these differences vary depending on what kinds of people did the killing. In What About Mozart? What About Murder?, Becker uses this example, along with many others, to demonstrate the different ways to study society, one that uses carefully investigated, specific cases and another that relies on speculation and on what he calls “killer questions,” aimed at taking down an opponent by citing invented cases.

Becker draws on a lifetime of sociological research and wisdom to show, in helpful detail, how to use a variety of kinds of cases to build sociological knowledge. With his trademark conversational flair and informal, personal perspective Becker provides a guide that researchers can use to produce general sociological knowledge through case studies. He champions research that has enough data to go beyond guesswork and urges researchers to avoid what he calls “skeleton cases,” which use fictional stories that pose as scientific evidence. Using his long career as a backdrop, Becker delivers a winning book that will surely change the way scholars in many fields approach their research.

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In 1963, Howard S. Becker gave a lecture about deviance, challenging the then-conventional definition that deviance was inherently criminal and abnormal and arguing that instead, deviance was better understood as a function of labeling.  At the end of his lecture, a distinguished colleague standing at the back of the room, puffing a ci...

Howard S. Becker is the author of several books, including Writing for Social Scientists, Telling About Society, Tricks of the Trade, and Art Worlds. He currently lives and works in San Francisco.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.7 inPublished:August 22, 2014Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022616649X

ISBN - 13:9780226166490

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
 
1 First Look
2 What’s Happening Elsewhere
 Reasoning from a Case to the World
3 Reasoning from Analogy
4 Black Boxes
 Using Cases to Study Input-Output Machi
5 Complicating and Combining Black Boxes
 Where Is the Value in Art?
6 Imagining Cases
7 Where Do You Stop?
8 Ious, Promissory Notes, and Killer Questions
 What About Mozart? What About Murder?
9 Last Words
 
References
Index

Editorial Reviews

“Becker is a sociologist known as much for his dry wit as for his groundbreaking work examining deviancy, art and music.”