Richard Lachmann, Sociology PhD from Harvard University, is Chair of the Department of Sociology at SUNY Albany. His studies include: sociology of culture, popular culture, political sociology, war and terrorism, U.S. decline, military spending, and fiscal crises.
In this article, he asserts that neither the Beckerian (1963) nor the subcultural theories of deviance explain “for the interaction of organization and ideology in the individual and collective experiences of graffiti writers” (248). While writers enter the graffiti art world through Becker’s local ties and social networks, the importance of reputation is not enough to continue careers. Taggers require gang patronage and neighborhood muralists privilege gallery-endowed adulation and monetary rewards over local advocacy.
Throughout their careers, writers “use their immediate social ties to construct generalizations about their opportunities for fame” (249). However, they judge their own work based on the reputation and attendant rewards enjoyed by another. Writers’ corners had encouraged muralists’ earlier (Beckerian) views of fame and worth, but absent those locales, commercial fame preempted local admiration.
“…we must amend [Becker’s] insight by recognizing that…social actors…must reconcile what they learn and do in their individual careers with their broader experiences and observations, or, in the language of Marxist cultural theory, with the hegemonic culture” (249).