Posted by: vanhoff | April 18, 2008

The underground economy Part III

     Schlosser “Reefer Madness

     Over the semester, I have been able to study extreme deviance and the causal effects that it has upon societies. After reading Schlosser’s book, I was able to identify ten concepts that our class has studied thus far. The first concept identified in the book was Schlosser’s use of the Conflict Approach based largely on Karl Marx’s analysis of the structure of society. Conflict occurs when a person experiences demands or desires that are incompatible with each other. There are different approaches that individuals face when dealing with conflict. In approach-approach conflict, we are attracted to two equally desirable goals. In avoidance-avoidance conflict, we must choose between two equally undesirable demands. In approach-avoidance conflict, we have one goal that has positive and negative aspects. Schlosser applies all three aspects of the Conflict model to allow the reader to understand how power between authoritative figures and the public collide in a power struggle. An example of this is noted when Schlosser investigates the United States government, senators, police, to the Drug Enforcement Agency who exploit proletariats with their ability to manipulate the legal system.

            A second point to Schlosser’s argument was the use of different schematics that call for marijuana-law reform. He contests that a moral panic was created due in large part to the government that cast the drug into the shadow market. A moral panic can be created when a substantial number of a society’s members are subjected to immense fear and threat that may compromise the society norms and values. However, Schlosser’s essay reveals that a sober assessment of the evidence it is non-existent or considerably less than the concrete evidence shows. Moral panics are short-lived, but can create disastrous effects upon certain members of the society. Schlosser points to the fact that the “folk devils” are not the pot growers nor smokers, but the government. Reverse psychology it may be, but the government and the general American public have stereotyped and classified them as deviants. Moral panics leave a legacy, unlike that of a fad. To thwart a stigma one is often found to associate with those who have been stigmatized as well. 

            Another point of contention found within Schlosser’s first essay pertains to how deviant behavior is patterned. He tells the story of Mark Young who was giving life for conspiracy to sell and distribute large amounts of marijuana. When reading the case concerning Young, I found that the others involved lived similar ways to that of Young. Cindy and Jerry Montgomery, who were involved in the Young case, lived in scattered locations thus allowing to contend the thesis that over time patterns of deviant behavior become institutionalized and imbedded in the sociocultural fabric. The conflict theory used by Schlosser in his essays suggests that crime is nothing more than a disagreement over what constitutes acceptable behavior. With this understanding, certain types of crime may occur in one society but not in another. Schlosser points to the fact that one state within the US may slap a fine for first-time marijuana offenders, yet in another geographical location within that same state imprison an individual for the same offense. Therefore, when the government created a moral panic towards marijuana, the power elite were able to condemn the lower-class offenders in an effort to maintain control.

            When studying extreme deviance, one must look no further than the values and morals that a society deems as proper. Examining extreme deviance can vary in the definition due to the nature of the act in question; nonetheless, the act is essentially stigmatized forever within that set society. An example of this theory lies within the United States. Many feel no sympathy for Schlosser’s argument concerning the misguided treatment of illegal immigrant workers. However, it is the ignorance of many and their inability to find out what is truly happening in the fields. As much as the desire not to know about it, society deems the deviant thus labeling the migrant worker as a conspirator against the American workforce. I believe that the facts may lie heavy on one’s conscience that is responsible for this lack of awareness. Not intelligence, not strength, not social class can deem one as deviant without truly understanding one’s desired goals.

            The last essay speaks loudly to the patriarchal and economic belief that is held deep in the fabric of American culture. Pornography is one of America’s largest industries, but it is one of America’s social crusades to save moral values. Schlosser neglects to mention the feminist movement against pornography and the role women play in pornography, which are of deep social interest to many. However, similar to his first essay he writes about Rueben Sturman and his struggles with the American government on censure. However, porn is now common in today’s society; however, most do not accept and therefore stray from tertiary labeling. Individuals who are considered deviant produce social problems by openly claiming their behavior. Most men surveyed admit to hiding porn and other such items from mates, friends and family. Thereby, not openly accepting the label one is hiding from societies expectations of moral stature. Schlosser also points to the Enron scandal and the similarities that Sturman once exploited. Schlosser offers a corollary to each essay. Against corporate conglomerates, he upholds small businesses. Against the drug war, he promotes decriminalization and decent public health care. Against labor exploitation, and for worker’s rights, and fervently against special interests of prison-builders, investments in real economic opportunity he proposes focusing on the largely unchecked economic crimes of the rich.

            Schlosser’s book, well written keeping in tune with Public Sociology, has brought a better understanding of the war on drugs. As I began to understand moral panic throughout this semester, I question to what constitutes the bourgeois to create such panic Schlosser gave insight into the criminalization of marijuana and how a crop once adorned by one nation, is nothing but a deviant plant. Ironically, in the book he actively denies that full legalization of marijuana is the answer, while pages later he finishes by writing that black markets “will recede in importance when our public morality is consistent with our private one.” As a student of sociology, I have learned that to be open to the education of deviance and society one needs to do his or her own research in order for a complete, and accurate research. Schlosser is good for sociology due in part to his popularity, and his willingness to open the gates that otherwise would stay shut.


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