Resurrecting an Abandoned “Standpoint”: An Exploratory Application of W. I. Thomas’ Abandoned “Four Wishes” and the “Definition of the Situation” to Adolescent Shoplifters’ Cases

J Forbes Farmer

Abstract


This is a novel, qualitative application of W. I. Thomas’ (1863-1948) historically significant ideas about human motivation to the study of shoplifters. Nineteen short cases of self-reported adolescent shoplifting are presented here under the organization of Thomas’ (1923) “Four Wishes” and discussed from Thomas’s symbolic interactionist perspective, the “Definition of the Situation.” While the “Thomas Theorem” (Merton, 1948) has long been abandoned as an action theory and is rarely used by sociologists, this researcher found Thomas’ “standpoints” useful in gaining an understanding of what was going on in the mind of the adolescents as they shoplifted and in explicating the meaning shoplifting had to them.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/jsr.v8i1.11046

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