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Alienation, deviance and social control : a comparative sociological analysis of official reactions to radical labor movements in the U.S. and Canada. Fricke, John George


This study investigates some factors involved in the genesis of political deviance by regarding established values and norms as major sources of deviant behavior. Important kinds of political deviance in North American society are seen as emerging from a cleavage in perspective which originates in the different social backgrounds of elites and non-elite groups. 'Elites' are groups of individuals who hold positions at the apex of the various institutions, and who can appreciably influence the life chances of others. The term 'non-elite groups' refers to those groups of persons who have no such prerogative. Existing standards of behavior are taken as a point of departure by regarding them as alienating conditions from the viewpoint of some non-elite members of society. Such non-elite estrangement from existing values and norms may result in protest which, in a given circumstance, officialdom may define as deviant conduct. In order to dissolve the challenge which this deviance signifies to commonly accepted standards the authorities may react to it by the enacting and/or application of rules. The types of devices the authorities will apply to control the deviant conduct depend upon the conditions they perceive as motivating it. Two social conditions are here assumed to be frequent sources of alienation and, ultimately, deviance. One such condition has its origin in the man-work relationship and can be described in terms of the orthodox Marxian notion of alienation from work. Another condition refers to the total disenchantment of a group of individuals with established values and norms. These assumptions suggest the interrelation of the three major sociological concepts of alienation, deviance and social control in order to demonstrate that the phenomena represented by them manifest themselves in a temporal sequence that is integral to the process of becoming deviant. This theoretical outline guided the sociological interpretation of historical materials that encompass some of the activities engaged in by radical labor movements in North America during the post-World War I and II periods. Documents from Labor, business and government sources were introduced as the data. The study confirms an often-made assumption that political deviance and possibly other forms of deviance emanate from a cleavage in perspective that arises from the different social experiences common to elites and non-elite groups. Where such cleavage is appreciable, the authorities frequently perceive Labor's conduct as motivated by a Communist conspiracy that aims at the replacement of existing standards with the objectives of the "co-operative commonwealth". Where this cleavage is less pronounced, the authorities perceive some groups of individuals as disaffected from the work role. A comparison of the U.S. and Canadian perspectives of the events examined generally reveals only minor differences between the U.S. and Canadian Labor Movements. These differences are here regarded as resulting from the evolution of the North American Trade Union Movement itself. No important differences are found to exist between the perspectives of these incidents by the U.S. and Canadian authorities in the two historical periods examined.

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