Reconstructing and reporting the history of a social problem is always a diffi cult and speculative enterprise. Substantial areas of the problem may never have been recorded because they were covert or concealed. Those unknown areas form an uncertain context for interpreting the residue that was intentionally or unwittingly left for others to examine. The residue itself is composed of contributions made by people who were often engaged in masking or transforming the possible signifi cance of what they were doing. The worlds of legislators, control agents, and deviants tend to be complex, ambiguous, and marked by internal contradiction. They revolve around practices that are variously discredited or discreditable; designed for very diverse audiences; expressly public or intensely private; and shaped by confl icting, perhaps irreconcilable, imperatives and principles. Each practice assumes a different meaning when it is individually evaluated. Only a few facets of such worlds will ever become visible, they are politically laden, and those facets that can be inspected must be treated circumspectly.
Publisher: Transaction Publishers