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Gordon Marshall (University of Essex)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 1 January 1981



Sociologists of crime and deviance have devoted considerable time and effort, in recent years, to the study of deviants' accounts of their activities. There are good reasons why students of deviance in particular should be interested in what can be learned from their subjects' explanations of their social practices. Actors are normally called to account for or to explain their activities precisely when these actions are seen by significant others to be in some sense “unreasonable”. Moreover, accounts are central to the processes of law. The purpose of legal judgements is to attribute or withold responsibility. In order to assess an individual's guilt, where criminal activities are concerned, lawyers, judges, and juries pose such questions as: “Did the defendant perform an illegal act?”; “if so, can he or she explain his or her actions in reasonable terms?”; “Was the act in question pre‐meditated?” (that is, “motivated”); and, perhaps most important of all “What is the relationship between the accused's account of his or her involvement in an act, and their real involvement?”


Marshall, G. (1981), "ACCOUNTING FOR DEVIANCE", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 17-45.




Copyright © 1981, MCB UP Limited

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