Interactionism and labelling theory: a summary

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  • Interactionism and labelling theory
    • The social construction of crime
      • Who gets labelled
        • 3 factors that determine whether a person is arrested, charged and convicted
          • Their interactions with agencies of social control
          • Their appearance, background and personal biography
          • The situation and circumstances of the offence
        • Piliavin and Blair: physical cues
        • Cicourel: typifications
          • Result in class bias because W/C areas and people fit police typifications most closely
            • This is reinforced by other agents of social control
        • Cicourel: justice is negotiated
        • Cicourel: official statistics should be used as a topic not a resource
      • The social construction of crime statistics
        • Statistics tell us the activities of police and prosecutors rather than the amount of crime in society or who commits it
    • The effects of labelling
      • Primary and secondary deviance
        • Master status
        • Self-concept
        • Self-fulfilling prophecy
        • Deviant career
        • Deviant subculture
        • Control culture
      • Deviance amplification spiral
        • Folk devils opposite of dark figure of crime
      • Labelling and criminal justice policy
        • Triplett: attempts to control and punish young offenders have had the opposite effect because an increasing tendency to see them as evil and to be less tolerant of minor deviance has re-labelled status offences as more serious offences, resulting in much harsher sentences
        • Negative labelling pushes offenders towards a deviant career, therefore one should actually make and enforce fewer laws
        • Reintegrative shaming avoids stigmatising the offender while still making them aware of the negative impact of their actions, avoiding pushing them into secondary deviance
    • Mental illness and suicide: the sociology of deviance
      • Douglas: the meaning of suicide
        • Interactions and negotiations between social actors might take place in order for a death to be officially labelled as a suicide
        • Relatives might try to cover up a suicide because they feel guility or are ashamed of it
        • A coroner might be reluctant to label a death as suicide because of their religion
      • Atkinson: coroners' commonsense knowledge
        • Focuses on the taken-for-granted assumptions that coroners make when reaching their verdict
        • If he is correct that all one can do is have interpretations of the social world then his account is no more than that itself
      • Mental illness
        • Official statistics on MI are, accprding to interactionists, a record of the activites of those such as psychiatrists with the power to attach labels to others
        • Lemert sees paranoia as a self-fulfilling prophecy and therefore the patient's master status
          • This is confirmed by Rosenhan's study
      • Goffman: institutionalisation
        • Mortification of the self
        • Degradation rituals
        • 2 inmate reactions: become institutionalised or adopt various forms of resistance or accomodation
        • Supported by Braginski et al
    • Evaluation
      • Shows that the law is not a fixed set of rules to be taken for granted
      • Shows that the law is enforced in discriminatory ways
      • Shows that society's attempts to control deviance can backfire
      • Tends to focus on less serious crimes
      • Fails to explain why people commit primary deviance


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