“The Saints and the Roughnecks” is an interesting study of sociological processes and differences in two groups of young people from different economic backgrounds. Because of their economic backgrounds, the way that the kids were treated by society was very different—the “saints” were looked upon with approval while the “roughnecks” were looked down with derision and disapproval even if the deviant activities of both groups were at the same level. Interestingly, social stratification, which refers to their socio-economic standing, affected the way that society looked at their deviant behavior and ultimately their socialization.
Social Stratification The “Saints” belonged to families with higher incomes and social standing while the “Roughnecks” belonged to the lower strata of society. Social stratification, however, does not only derive from economic differences. Rather, it stems from different power arrangements in the society as well as the social status of the families of the kids (Ritzer & Goodman, 2004). In the case of the “Saints”, their parents enjoyed good standing in the society and this helped them get away with deviant acts more easily.
The community also had the perception that these boys were good because of their ability to enjoy the economic benefits of being part of a higher echelon of society. The Roughnecks on the other hand did not have automobiles, money, and other benefits, which could have helped enhance their image in the society. As such, they did not enjoy the kind of approval bestowed upon the Saints. In the end, social stratification affected the development of these kids. Deviance and Labeling Theory
Both groups—the Saints and the Roughnecks displayed deviant behaviors in the form of theft, disturbing public peace, and vandalism among others. Even if both groups undertook deviant behaviors, the Roughnecks were discriminated more by the police and by the community. They were labeled as deviants because their acts were more visible to the society. The Saints, on the other hand, were not labeled as deviants. When the individual or group internalized such labels, they begin acting in the way that the label dictates (Willis, 1996). Hence, most of the Roughnecks became social deviants.
Deviance and Power Conflict Deviance is also influenced by the conflicts between those who hold the reins of power and those who do not have power (Giddens, 2006). This is specially seen in the relationship of the Roughnecks with the police. The police, who hold political and social power over the delinquent roughnecks, the latter became disrespectful and resistant to the intervention of police officers. The Saints, however, became respectful to the police officers, which led to them being let off the hook even if they were caught in the act of doing deviant activities.
The way that the kids showed defiance or deference to the holders of power and authority made a difference in the way they were treated. This also explains why the Roughnecks were arrested more often than the Saints even if they committed roughly the same level of deviance in the society. On the whole, the study of Chambliss (1978) showed different sociological processes at work in two different groups in the society. There are different ways of looking at the processes that the groups of kids went through, yet through Sociology, these processes could be understood better.