Crime and Deviance - Social Action Theory and Crime

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  • Social action theorists argue that the vast majority of population have broken the law and could be seen as criminal
  • The previous theorists tend to trust the official statistics on who are the criminals. Social action theorists challenge theses official statistics and argue they are no more than social constructs
  • Social action theorists are more concerned with how some groups become labelled as criminal by those with more power in society

Howard Becker

Becker argued that deviance is a relative concept and that deviance only exists because those in power have decided something is deviant.

Whether or not the label deviant will be applied to an act also depends on who commits the act, when and where they commit it, and who sees it.

He also argues that the middle class may gbe able to use their cultural capital to talk their way out of trouble.

  • Becker also introduced the idea of the master label and the deviant career
  • The master label refers to a label that that precedence over all other labels
  • Examples of negative master labels could be criminal, junkie or prostitute
  • Master labels override all other labels such as parent, neighbour or friend
  • Those with a master label will be treated negatively, and this may lead to the devlopment of a negative self image
  • So the label becomes internalised and accepted and a self fullfilling prophecy occurs
  • A deviant career may occur when this happes, as rejection from society means the person can't find work
  • This leads to furthr crime and eventually a deviant subculture forms where others with the same label support each other

Jock Young

1971 study of "hippie" marijuana users in Notting Hill

  • Young argued…



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