Becker Labelling Theory

A2 Sociology revision

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  • Created by: Amira
  • Created on: 18-05-12 06:43

Started from the idea social groups created deviance by setting the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance.

By applying those rules to people and labelling them as outsiders they become outsiders. Labelling has a consequence. Did an experiment on drug taking in 1960s universities in America. If you got caught you were expelled. If you didn't get caught you went on to lead a normal, successful life.

Acts are defined by their context.

Acts need an audience to be defined as deviant.

Problem with this is acts that are committed without an audience, i.e. murder; it is still murder even if the person isn't caught.

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Useful because it focuses on the consequences not the causes, i.e. how an audience make their definitions. Also focuses on ideas the person making the definition might have.

Stereotypes of agents of social control.

Master status - your main status. everything else you do is defined in terms of this main or master status. This leads to the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Master status influences all interactions and self-concepts which leads to the self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Stages of being labelled:

1. Publicly labelled - rejection.

2. Deviant joins others, gets support from others so labelled.

3. Deviant career {final stage} -join an organised deviant group - sub-culture with deviant norms and values.


Deviant identity becomes the controlling identity.


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