Interactionism and Crime: Labelling

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The Social Construction of Crime

  • how and why we define crime and deviance
  • no act is inherently criminal 
  • labelling leads to deviancy 

Becker (1953)

'the act of injecting heroin into a vein is not inherently deviant. If a nurse gives a patient drugs under a doctors order. it is perfectly proper' 

  • social groups create deviance by making rules and applying them to outsiders
  • deviance is therefore the consequence of the application of others rules and sanctions
  • a deviant is simply someone to whom a label has been successfully applied 
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Key Studies

Cicourel (1976)

  • studied police and juvenille offenders
  • all had a similar picture of a typical deliquent 
  • young people who fitted this description were jmore likely to be arrested 
  • those closest were most likely to be charged
  • this shows justice is not fixed and agents of social control reinforce biases 

Lemert (1972)

  • primary deviance - devinat acts that have not been publically labelled 
  • secondary deviance - acts that have been publically labelled as deviant 
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Secondary Deviance

  • master statuses become apparent when secondary deviance occurs
  • master statuses lead to rejection but conventional society 
  • this leads people to join an organised deviant group
  • public labelling therefore becomes a self fulfilling prophecy 

Young (1971) Deviancy Amplification

  • hippies used marijuana as a peripheral part of their lifestyle
  • a stereotype forms from the mass media
  • police share this stereotype an start using control against the hippies
  • the hippies respond by becoming more isolated
  • this reinforces the stereotype 
  • deviant self concepts are formed
  • more arrests occur
  • drug taking is now central
  • drug squad gets involved
  • fantasy crime wave is produced 
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  • draws attention to the importance of labelling
  • shows how people are singled out
  • shows that this results from definitions and perceptions
  • deviance is not simply created from labels 
  • fails to explain how deviants are selected 
  • who defines what is deviant?
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