Labelling theory: The social construction of crime

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The Social Construction of Crime Introduction -Labelling theorists are interested in how and why certain actions come to be defined in the way they do. -They believe that no act is intrinsically deviant/criminal in all situations/times. -Something is only considered this way if someone labels it in this way. -Becker: "Social groups create deviance by making rules whose infraction (breaking) constitutes deviance, and by applying those rules to particular people and labelling them as outsiders." Labelling theorists look at how/why particular laws and rules are made. Especially the role of what Becker calls 'moral entrepreneurs,' (People who lead a moral crusade to change the law so that it benefits those who it governs). This creates 2 effects: 1. This creates a new group of outsiders (deviants who break the new rule) 2. The creation or expansion of a social control agency to enforce this new rule and impose labels on offenders. For example: Platt: -The idea of 'juvenile delinquency,' was originally created as a result of a campaign for a change by upper-class, Victorian moral entrepreneurs aimed at protecting young people at risk. - Therefore, 'juvenile,' became a different category of offender with their own court. -This enabled the state to extend its powers beyond criminal offences involving the young into 'status crimes' (such as promiscuity/truancy) -Becker: Even some social control agencies often campaign for a change in the law to increase their own power. (For example: US Federal Bureau of Narcotics successfully campaigned for the passing of the Marijuana Tax Act (1937) to outlaw marijuana. -It was supposedly due to the negative effects it had on young people. -However, Becker believed that it was really so that the Bureau could exert more of an influence on more people. -This shows that it is not the intrinsic harmfulness of something that leads to a law being passed against it, but the efforts of powerful individuals and groups to redefine that thing as unacceptable. Who gets labelled? -Not everyone who commits an offence is punished for it. -Whether or not they are punished depends on these factors: 1. Their interactions with agencies of social control (for example: the police/courts.) -Their appearance/background/personal biography. -For example: Piliavan and Briar: -Found that police decisions to arrest a youth were mainly based on physical cues (manner/dress). -From this they made judgements on the youth's character. -Their decisions were also based on the suspect's gender/class/ethnicity.(Also time/place) -For example: Those who went out late at night ran a greater rish of arrest. Circourel: The negotiation of justice: -Officers' decisions to arrest are influenced by their stereotypes about offenders. -He found that officers' typifications (common sense theories or stereotypes of what the delinquent is like). -This led them to concentrate on certain typifications in particular. -As a result, law enforcement then began to show 'class bias,'

-Most working class areas fitted the typifications the closest.

-This led police to patrol working class areas more intesively which resulted in more arresrts of working class people and the stereotypes confirmed.



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