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  • Created by: AJ
  • Created on: 06-03-13 14:16

Question: Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the view that crime and deviance are the product of labelling processes. (21 marks)

Labelling theorists are interested in how and why certain acts come to be defined or labelled as criminal in the first place. For Becker, a deviant is someone to whom the label has been successfully applied, and deviant behaviour is simply behaviour that people so label. 

Officers' decisions to arrest are influenced by their stereotypes about offenders. For example, Cicourel found that officers' typifications led them to concentrate on certain 'types'. This resulted in law enforcement show a class bias, in that working class areas and people fitted the police typifications most closely. In turn, this led police to patrol working class areas more intensively, resulting in more arrests and confirming their stereotypes. 

Lemert distinguishes between primary and secondary deviance. Primary deviance refers to deviant acts that have not been publicly labelled, e.g. dodging the train fare usually goes uncaught. Secondary deviance is the result of societal reaction of labelling. Once an individual is labelled, others may see him only in terms of the


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