Faberman and Criminogenic Markets

“A Criminogenic Market Structure: the automobile Industry”  by Harvey A. Farberman was published in The Sociological Quarterly in 1975. I read it while I was a Lecturer in Politics at Adelaide University and thought the whole idea of criminogenic markets was very interesting, by its allusion to US media comments made on the Kennedy-Nixon debates. One of the media comments made about this was regarding used car salesman. I understood that this could have been the initial comment that gave Faberman the idea to do an empirical study of this phenomena, which in turn led to what I have alway considered to be a key article in the wider problem of understanding and defining the concept of “criminogenic”.

I also thought the idea of criminogenic markets was useful, because it addresses the micro-macro problematic, which I was working on at the time. So I wrote to Harvey Farberman at Stoneybrook on 1 November 1977, with a draft chapter – “The Emergent Properties of Interaction” – which I was hoping to publish on the Micro-Macro Distinction. and he was good enough to reply. I was hoping to ask his advice about an article I had sent to Harry M. Johnson, the new Editor of Sociological Inquiry and that had been turned down. Farberman, was then a visiting scholar at University of California, Berkeley.

By then, it was 12 Jan 1978 as Farberman was Visiting Research Scholar at University of California, Santa Barbara. He had shown the manuscript to Howard Becker, the first editor of Symbolic Interaction, a new journal, the single issue for the year due out in the Fall of 1977. I had never heard of this journal before. The letter continues:

I quote from Farberman’s reply of 8 April 1978, when he was still at University of California at Berkeley: “I sent your Emergent Properties of Interaction ms to Howard Becker who reviewed it and found it somewhat “programmatic” and not in line with the more “empirical” approach he meant to establish in the issues of Symbolic Interaction for which he is editor. I shall now forward your piece to our new editor, Peter M. Hall, and hope for the best. I shall ask him to send further correspondence directly to you. As I am chairman of the publication committee of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction which publishes the above-mentioned journal, I can assure you your material will be given proper consideration.

I hope you will not be discouraged by your recent editorial feedback and continue your important work. I shall write at a later date after reading your material. Sincerely yours, Harvey. A. Faberman

Sadly, I do not have the reply from Peter M. Hall, but I had no expectations that it would have been different from Howard Becker’s judgement. For a long time I did not know this was the same Peter Hall who has worked with Tom R. Burns, but from his online CV, I now see how central a figure he was – and still is – in symbolic interactionism. Peter Hall got his Ph. D. at Minnesota University in 1963 and was Editor of Symbolic Interaction from 1978 to 1982. He won the George Herbert Mead Award in 1994 and more recently has worked with Tom R. Burns, as is clear from this wikipedia item on Meta-power.

It was only many years later after reading Gary Alan Fine and Janet S. Severance “Great Men and Hard Times: Sociology at the University of Minnesota” The Sociological Quarterly 1985, 26 (1) :117-134 that I realised the journal Symbolic Interaction was one of the consequences of the early 1980s changes made to found the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction in which Minnesota symbolic interactionists had played a key part. I also see that Harvey Farberman got his Ph.D. at Minnesota in Sociology, around the same time as Peter Hall, in the early 1960’s. Minnesota Sociology was already then, a decade before I went there, a major source of important sociologists working from the critical sociology perspective.

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