Labelling Theory - Clashes With Social Norms

1788 words, 8 pages

Intro Sample...

Labelling theory first came about in the late 1960s and 70s as a new approach to crime and deviance, and is a social way of thinking about crime. It became the main sociological theory of crime, even though it did not try and understand what exactly made people criminal but more societies reactions to crime, “it looks towards society’s reaction to the deviant more than to the person of the deviant” [Williams; 2008, Pg.420]. Previously, Functionalists had discussed reasons for deviance being anomie and incorrect socialisation within an individual causing them to be unaware of social norms and fall away from mainstream society. Marxists had blamed the anti-social acts of working class criminals on the oppression and alienation they are... View More »

Body Sample...

90]. Labelling theory itself is mainly associated with Howard Becker who was a Chicago sociologist, and was introduced in 1963. It is a theory of deviance, and views it as a label assigned to behaviour and individuals by particular figures of authority. He studied cultures and careers and ways they were transformed by negative sanctions against marijuana use and its control and in his research he found that making sanctions against drug use would lead to distinctive subcultures and careers as drug users which he believed would not exist without the sanctions. Beaker [1963], announced that “social groups create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance, and by applying those rules to particular people and labelling them as outsiders” [cited in Carrabine; 2009, Pg.95].

Edwin Lemert’s 1972 concept of primary and secondary deviance is a further contribution of labelling theory. Primary deviance refers to deviant acts which have not been publically labelled, which most people have committed at some point, but have little effect on our status in society, “a youth may see that most of his peers shop lift…they come to see such acts as normal rather than criminal, and believe they have a reasonable defence of justification” [Williams; 2008, Pg.424]. Secondary deviance refers to deviant acts which have been publically labelled as deviant, and do affect an individual’s societal status and behaviour; this is the main focus of labelling perspectives. “The individual may begin to employ a deviant behaviour or role based upon this new status, which has been ...

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