2. Labelling theory

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  • Labelling theory
    • The social construction of crime
      • Interactionists are interested in how and why certain acts are labelled as deviant or criminal
      • No act is inherently deviant in itself, in all situations at all times
      • Deviance is in the eye of the beholder
      • BECKER
        • A deviant is someone who has been labelled and deviant behaviour is simply behaviour that people so label
        • Moral entrepreneurs are people who lead a moral 'crusade' to change the law
        • This new law has 2 effects: the creation of a new group of 'outsiders' and the creation or expansion of a social control agency
        • Social control agencies may also campaign for a change in the law to increase their own power
        • Therefore it is the efforts of powerful individuals who redefine certain behaviour as unacceptable
      • Not everyone who commits an offence is punished for it
      • Whether a person is arrested, charged or convicted depends on things like their interaction with the agencies of social control, their appearance and the circumstances of the offence
      • Some groups are more likely to be labelled as deviant or criminal than others
      • E.g. a study of ASBO's found they were disproportionately used against ethnic minorities
      • CICOUREL: the negotiation of justic
        • Officers' decisions to arrest are influenced by their stereotypes about offenders
        • Officers' typifications lead them to concentrate on certain groups
        • This leads to law enforcement showing class-bias. They therefore patrolled w/c areas more intensively and arrested more w/c individuals
        • Other agencies also show this class-bias
        • Justice is therefore not fixed but negotiable as m/c individuals are less likely to be charged because they go against typifications of the stereotyped criminal
        • As a result, Cicourel argues that official crime statistics give us an invalid picture of crime amongst certain groups and should not be taken at face value
    • The effects of labelling
      • Primary and secondary deviance
        • LEMERT
          • Primary deviance refers to deviant acts that have not yet been publicly labelled
          • It is pointless to seek the causes of primary deviance since it is so widespread that is it unlikely to have a single cause and in any case it is often trivial
          • Secondary deviance  is the result of societal reaction- that is, of labelling
          • Once an individual has been labelled others may come to see him only in terms of the label. This becomes his master status
          • Master statuses may lead to self-fulfilling prophecies whereby the individual lives up to their deviant label
          • The further deviance that results from the master status is secondary deviance
          • Secondary deviance is likely to lead to a deviant career
          • A deviant career is likely to be reinforced by joining a deviant subculture
        • YOUNG
          • Studied hippy marijuana users
          • Initially drugs were peripheral top the hippies lifestyle
          • Prosecution and labelling by the control culture(police) led the hippies to see themselves as outsiders
          • The hippies retreated into a subculture, wearing longer hair and way out clothes. Drugs also became an active part of the group
          • The police became more interested in the deviant group and this created a self-fulfilling prophecy
        • LEMERT & YOUNG
          • It is not the act itself but the hostile societal reaction by the social audience that creates serious deviance
          • Therefore, social control increases the deviant reaction of the deviant subcultures
        • EVAL: DOWNES & ROCK: we cannot predict whether someone who has been labelled will follow a deviant career because they are always free to choose not to deviate further
      • Deviance amplification
        • The attempt to control deviance leads to further deviance which in turn leads to more control which produces even higher levels of deviance
        • S. COHEN
          • His study of Folk Devils and Moral Panics shows how press exaggeration of the 'mods and rockers' rivalry lead to a moral panic
          • The police responded to the panic by arresting more youths  which increased public concern about the groups
          • More arrests however also lead to marginalisation of the youths as 'outsiders' resulting in more deviant behaviour from them
        • Unlike functionalist theories, labelling theory highlights how social control leads to deviance rather than deviance leading to social control
      • Labelling and criminal justice policy
        • Increases in the attempt to control and punish young offenders have the opposite effect
        • TRIPLETT
          • There is an increasing trend in the USA to see youths as evil
          • The CJS has re-labelled status offences such as truancy as more serious resulting in much harsher sentences
          • This has lead to n increase in offending
        • Logically, to reduce deviance, we should make and enforce fewer rues for people to break
        • Labelling theory  implies that we should avoid publicly naming and shaming offenders as this is likely to push them into further deviance
        • BRAITHWAITE
          • Identifies a more positive role for the labelling process. he distinguishes between 2 types of shaming:
            • Disintegrative shaming: where not only the crime but also the criminal is labelled as bad and the offender is excluded from society
            • Reintegrative shaming: where only the act is labelled but not the actor
          • Reintegrative shaming avoids stigmatising the offender and therefore encourages them to be accepted back into society. This also reduces the chances of them turning to secondary deviance
          • Crime rates tend to be lower in societies where reintegrative shaming is dominant
        • EVAL
          • Deterministic, implying that once someone is labelled a deviant career is inevitable
          • Emphasis on labelling gives the offender a kind of victim status
          • Ignores the fact that offenders may actively choose to be deviant
          • Fails to exaplin why people commit primary deviance before they are labelled
          • Implies without labelling, deviance would not exist

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