Klapp Heroes Villains and Fools

Klapp "Heroes, Villains and Fools, as Agents of Social Control," American Sociological Review, Vol. 19, No. 1. (Feb., 1954), pp. 56-62 (JSTOR)


Previously we've encountered the following assertions
Durkheim: It does not offend the collective consciousness because it is a crime, it is a crime because it offends the collective consciousness.
Erikson: Communities are boundary maintaining entities by their very nature.
Various: It's not abou the deviant act, it's about society's reaction.
Something you have not heard me say yet, but probably will hear me say repeatedly, is "be very careful about using 'society' as the subject of a sentence." It's all easy to slip into reifying society as if it were the government or something like that. "Society does this" or "Society does that" usually is not too informative.

So, what is the alternative? In the next few classes we will try to unpack some of the ways that "society does" social control. That is, we will examine specific practices that express, engage, exercise, and alter the collective sense of the topography of a community's sensibilities. We will look at culturally available rhetoric for creating collective concern, techniques for marshalling communal reactions, patterns in social movements which aspire to change or resist societies rules.

Today, we might say, we are going to try to develop an ear for how "society talks" or, rather, how "social talk" is used to map, and occasionally explicitly mark its boundaries.

Orrin Klapp, writing in the 1950s, produced a number of papers on "social types."

What is a social type?

We all learned in school about stereotypes : "overgeneralized belief that a certain trait, behavior, or attitude characterizes all members of some identifiable group." Compare : pigeonhole = see some traits and assign to a category; Or stamp = put label on (prematurely and assume that unobserved traits can be inferred from the label).

And we all learned that stereotypes are in one way or another pathological — one ought to strive not to think in terms of them.

Here we are talking about "social types" and we might say, imitating Durkheim, that "social types are normal." Types are a part of our basic apparatus for making sense of the world. We learn from an early age to use partial information to assign things and people we encounter to known categories and on the basis of such "typification" we are able to "proceed as usual" with respect to

Culturally available ideas that express specific departures from the conventional. How to do "an ordinary member of society" is illustrated by the circulation of these types.

DJR : cf. leaving shirts or pizza boxes on the ground to mark the outlines of the field for a pick up soccer game.

Klapp, Orrin "Heroes, Villains and Fools as Agents of Social Control" ASR Vol. 19, No. 1. (Feb., 1954), pp. 56-62

  1. Intro
    1. The Types
      1. Hero : higher status, prestige, honor; exceeds requirements of group membership;
        1. subtypes : conquering, clever, cinderella, quest, deliverer, popular benefactor, cultural, martyr
      2. Villain : lower status but like heroes extreme, super, outside the norm; enemies of social organization; offender of mores
        1. subtypes : persecutor, traitor, flouter, fiend, rogue
      3. Fool : lower status by virtue of lacking basic requisite social characteristics (common sense, grace, courage, commitment)
        1. subtypes : antic (excess conduct), clumsy (deficiency grace), pompous (excess confidence, deficient in competence)
  2. Recognition
    1. visibility
    2. conformity to known category
    3. social situtational opportunity
  3. Social Response
    1. Labeling is assigning a status and response is "appropriate" for that status
    2. heroes get devotees, followers, sacred qualities (relics and such)
    3. villains get hostility and treatment as defiled, reformatory institutions developed.
  4. Functions
    1. Guidelines and recipes
    2. organizational seed
    3. solidarity