Crime and Deviance - Asses the view that the concept of the self fulfilling prophecy does not provide us with a satisfactory understanding of the nature of crime and deviance (21 Marks)

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Gareth Collins

Crime and Deviance; Topical questions 

Read item A and answer the question that follows;

Item A According to Lemert, deviance is the result of societal reaction. Where an act is publicly defined as deviant, the person who commited it may be stigmatised and shunned by others. As a result of being treated as an ‘outsider’ in this way, the individual may be driven to seek the company of other similarly excluded individuals, joining a deviant subculture where they can find support, status and opportunities to live up toi their label. In short, deviance is the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Question Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the view that the concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy does not provide us with a satisfactory understanding of the nature of deviance. 

The self-fulfilling prophecy is the process by which a person is associated with a typification in Society due to their actions, and in some cases, such as those when considering Crime and Deviance, they are stigmatised and outcast by society. So for example in the case of someone who tries, for the first time, a illegal drug such as Marijuana, and is found out by police. They are stigmatised as a drug user or junkie, possibly even an addict, and outcasted from regular society. They then may end up questioning themselves and having a crisis of identity. The majority of people would then be assumed to take on the label that they’ve acquired as being their master status - or their main identity. 

Because they’ve then taken on that master status, and accepted their label - it can be assumed that they would then continue to commit the crime which originally they were stigmatised for. That’s the theory offered by some Labelling Theory sociologists, anyway.

The Labelling theorist Lemert, came up with two types of deviance. Primary and Secondary. Primary, is the initial act of deviance which most members of society whom commit to it, often find are minor acts of deviance which sometimes don’t affect anyone else around them. They’re often described as “moments of madness” and unexplainable. Secondary deviance is deviance which is formed as a response to a societal reaction to the Primary deviance. For example, the drug user we just discussed, having been stigmatised and…


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