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Sociology - Crime
Topic 2 - Labelling theory…read more

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The social construction of
·Labelling theorists argue no act is inherently criminal or deviant
·Howard Becker argues a deviant is someone to whom the label is successfully applied to and the
deviant behaviour is a result of the label
·Becker refers to people who lead a moral 'crusade' to change law in the belief it will benefit those it's
applied to as 'moral entrepreneurs'
·Thos new law invariably has 2 effects:
·The creation of a new group of 'outsiders' who are outlaws and deviants who break the new rule
·The creation or expansion of a social control agency to enforce the rule and impose labels
·E.g. Platt argues the idea of 'juvenile delinquency' was created due to a campaign by upper class
Victorians moral entrepreneurs aimed at protecting young people at risk establishing a category of
offenders enabling state to extend powers beyond criminal offences involving the young into 'status
offences' like truancy…read more

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Who gets labelled?
·It depends on factors;
·Interactions with agencies of social control
·Appearance and background
·Situation and circumstances of offence
·So certain groups are more likely to be labelled than others
·Piliavin & Briar found police decisions to arrest a youth were based on physical ques from which they judged the youths
character as well as gender, class and ethnicity which influenced decisions
·Aaron Cicourel - negotiation or justice;
·Found officers' typifications led them to concentrate on certain 'types' resulting in law enforcement showing a class bias,
in that working class areas people fitted typifications more closely
·Found agents of social control within the CJS reinforced this bias thus tended to see youths from broken homes and
poverty as likely to offend in the future
·He argues justice is negotiable
·Middle class youths who had offended with supportive parents were able to persuade control agencies for a warning
rather than prosecution…read more

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The effect of labelling
·Primary & secondary deviance
·Edwin Lemert;
·Primary deviance refers to deviant acts not publicly labelled and it is pointless to
seek the causes as it's so widespread it's unlikely to have a single cause
·They have little significance for their self concept and generally aren't a part of a
deviant life
·Secondary deviance is a result of societal reaction of labelling - being publicly
labelled may lead to shame and stigma and the individual is seen in terms of the
label forming the 'master status'
·They are no longer a mum, dad or friend they're a criminal - this may lead to self
fulfilling prophecy and membership of deviant subcultures…read more

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Jock Young uses the concept of secondary deviance in his
study of hippy marijuana use; initially drug use was a
primary deviance however persecution by police led hippies
to retreat into close groups where the developed into a
deviant subculture where drug use was a central activity
creating a self fulfilling prophecy
·Lemert and Young argue the hostile societal reaction by
the social audience creates serious deviance, not the act
itself…read more

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Deviance amplification
·A process in which the attempt to control deviance leads
to an increase in the level of deviance then after greater
attempts to control deviance the result is even high levels
of deviance
· See Jock Young
·Similar to Lemert's idea of secondary deviance as both
involved social reaction to a deviant act leading to further
deviance…read more

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