The BSA is sad to hear of the death of Howard S Becker.

Howard was perhaps best known for his research and writings on the sociology of deviance, and his book Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance (1963). In Outsiders, Becker examines the ways that people committing crime and people whose work involves catching criminals interact. The book marked a sea change in the study of deviance and set Howard on a path of critical acclaim in the sociological community.

Spending most of his academic life at Northwestern University where he taught from 1965 to 1991, Becker also produced influential works on the sociology of art, including the book Art Worlds (1982), which takes a close look at the contexts or ‘worlds’ that artists work in, as well as works on sociological methods including Writing for Social Scientists (1986). Howard, or rather ‘Howie’, was also an accomplished jazz piano player and examples of his work can be found on his website HOWIEs home page.

In 2003, Ken Plummer conducted an interview with Howard looking back at his work over the past 50 years. Published in Sociological Perspectives (Volume 46, Issue 1), a journal by the Pacific Sociological Association, Ken’s interview provided insights into Howard’s extensive body of work. In the introductory summary, Ken notes that Outsiders represents only a fraction of Becker’s contributions. He draws attention to an underlying interest in “work” and “collaborative efforts” that runs through Howard’s work and goes on to describe Howard as one of the foremost sociologists of the latter half of the 20th century.

Contacting the BSA about Howard’s death, Lyndsey Kramer remembered the kind of person he was saying ‘Howard (Howie) was a brilliant sociologist, who developed labelling theory. He was also a very lovely man, who had masses of time for those new to sociology, giving advice to those he had never even met.’