Topic 2 - Labelling Theory


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Preview of Topic 2 - Labelling Theory

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Deviance is in the eye of the beholder
New laws create a new group of outsiders and expands the role of social control agencies
Trying to increase their own power? US Federal Bureau of Narcotics successfully campaigned for
passing the Marijuana Tax Act 1937 to outlaw marijuana use
Officer's typifications led them to concentrate on certain type of people - resulted in law enforcement
showing a class bias (especially working class)
Justice is negotiable (e.g. m/c youth = less likely to be arrested - doesn't fit typification and parents may
be able to negotiate on their behalf)
Official Crime Statistics don't give valid picture of patterns in crime: should be used as a resource
Effects of labelling:
Label may become an individual's master status - may provoke a crisis for their self-concept - resolve
this by accepting deviant label - leads to self-fulfilling prophecy
Deviant career - Young - Hippy marijuana users: labelling and persecution by the control culture (police)
meant they saw themselves as outsiders - retreated to a deviant subculture - drug use became a central
activity - created self-fulfilling prophecy
Deviance amplification: greater attempts to control deviance creates more deviance etc - Stan Cohen -
Mods and Rockers, Clacton at Easter 1964: press exaggerated violence, created moral panic, call for
crackdown led to more arrests - confirmed truth of media reaction led to upward spiral of deviance
Two types of shaming:
Disintegrative Shaming = crime and criminal is labelled as bad - excluded from society
Reintegrative Shaming = only labels the act as bad, not the actor - 'did a bad thing'
Reintegrative shaming avoids stigmatising offender but makes them aware of the negative impact of
actions - allows them to be accepted back into society + prevents secondary deviance
Evaluation of labelling theory:
Shows that the law can be enforced in discriminatory ways
Attempts to control deviance can actually create more deviance
Tends to be deterministic - once someone is labelled, a deviant career is inevitable
Implies that without labelling, deviance wouldn't occur


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