Outline and Explain Interactionist Views of Crime and Deviance [50 Marks]

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Outline and Explain Interactionist Views on Crime and Deviance
[50 Marks]
Pease (1994) said, `Crime comprises those actions which are deemed so damaging to
the interest of the community that the state determines that it must take a direct
role in identifying and acting against the criminal.' Downes and Rock (1998) said
`Deviance may be considered as banned or controlled behaviour which is likely to
attract punishment or disproval.' In short, `Deviance' is a social construct that can
change across time and place and `Crime' is an action that breaks the law.
Since the 1950s, a group of sociologists called Interactionists have questioned
the positivist idea that those who commit crime are different from those who do not.
The positivist theory suggested that people were controlled by society and had little
control over their own actions (autonomy). Interactionism stresses that people are
not controlled by society; they in fact create and control their own societies
throughout their lives, as their behaviour changes from situation to situation
depending on how they perceive the actions of others. Integrationists show no
interest in the causes of crime, as they accept that criminals are no different from the
rest of us because most people commit some form of crime or deviant act in their
lifetime. They emphasise the importance of societal reaction to deviant acts.
This reaction comes in the form of labelling. Most sociological theories would
suggest that after a deviant act has been committed, the reaction from society would
be unanimous; however, Interactionists would argue that this is not the case. Different
people will attach different meanings to the deviant act that has been committed, and
to the perpetrator. The labels people attach to objects and others around them are
relative to the time, culture, place and the person themselves. This is demonstrated in
the research of John Kitsuse (1962) when he interviewed heterosexual students about
their responses to what they thought were sexual advances from people of the same
sex. He found a wide range of responses. Kitsuse's work suggests that there is no
agreed definition of what homosexual is; in the same way that there is no agreed
definition of what is deviant.
What follows from being labelled as a `deviant' is that this label (for example:
paedophile) becomes their master status (Becker 1963) and affects how their actions

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-both in the past and the present- are interpreted by others; all their other qualities
become unimportant. Cooley described the way we see ourselves as the `looking-glass
self', meaning that we build a picture of ourselves based on others think of us, and
that is what we see in the mirror. The way people perceive us and label us will affect
the way we interact with others.…read more

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Many criticisms of interactionism come from a Marxist perspective. Taylor,
Walton and Young (1973) suggested that it ignores the role of power in the creation
of laws; it does not have a coherent theory of power as it fails to explain why some
groups have more power than others to get laws passed or changed. Taylor et al. also
stated that this theory also fails to link deviance to the structure of society.…read more


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