Labelling theories of crime and deviance
Objectives
1.
Understand why labelling theorist regard
crime and deviance as socially constructed,
2.
Understand the labelling process and its
consequences for those who are labelled,
3.
Be able to evaluate the strengths and
limitations of the labelling theory in
explaining crime and deviance.
What might different
people say about this
tattoo?
Think of 3 different
people and suggest how
each might react to this
type of body art.
For more information, click below
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Yant-tattoo.jpg
Labelling theory

Instead of seeking the causes of crime and
providing solutions to the problem of crime
they ask how and why some actions come
to be labelled as criminal or deviant
Are these labels fair?
1.
“Alcoholic”: Someone who drinks more than 2 glasses of
wine a day.
2.
“Stupid”: Someone who achieves less than 5 GCSE’s.
3.
“Troublemaker”: Someone who committed a crime 10 years
ago but has been good ever since.
4.
“Superstar”: Someone who is an excellent player but plays a
division below what they could be playing?
5.
“ Slag”: Someone who fell pregnant with the first person
they had slept with as a teenager.
www.ngfl-cymru.org.uk
Social construction of crime
No act is inherently criminal or deviant in
itself, in all situations and at all times.
 It only comes to be so when others label it
as such
 It is not the nature of the act that makes it
deviant but the nature of societies reaction
to that act

Labelling and the social
construction of crime.

Social groups create deviance by creating
rules whose infraction [breaking] constitute
deviance, and by applying those rules to
particular people and labelling them as
outsiders (Becker, 1963)
What
is Becker
A deviant
is simply
trying
to say
someone
to whom
through
this
the label
has been
statement
?
applied
successfully
Social construction of crime

How and why do rules & laws get made?
Moral entrepreneurs;
Lead a moral ‘crusade’ to change the law
Aim to help the people the law is applied to
Creates deviants to the law
Expands the social control agencies
EG Platt (1969)
Social construction of crime ?
Becker believes that
deviant only deemed
as such because label
has been successfully
attached
Labelling theorist
focus on how and
why rules and laws
get made
Social Construction
of Crime
Becker 2 effects:
1. Outsiders,
2. Creation of social
control agencies
Platt (1969)
Moral entrepreneurs
What would be their labels ?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PtbU6
gorA4&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prLha5t
GaKg&feature=related
Have a think ....

1.
2.
3.
Discuss the labels the individuals depicted in
the two videos would have been given:
By yourselves (A2 sociology student),
Society in general,
Agencies of social control (police, etc)
Who gets labelled ?
Not everyone who commits an offence is
punished, it is dependent on three factors:
1. Interactions with agencies of social control,
2. Appearance, backgrounds and personal
biography,
3. Situation and circumstances of the
offences,

Cicourel (1968)

Read through Cicourel’s argument on your
handout
Circourcel (1968) – negotiation of
justice...
Officers decision to arrest are based on....
 ....................................................................
 ....................................................................
 ....................................................................
2. This lead police too....
...........................................................................
...............................................................
1.
Circourel (1968)
3. Circourel also found that .............................
reinforced this bias. For example ......................
..........................................................................
4. Circourel argues, justice is not fixed but
negotiable. For example ..............................
..........................................................................
Circoucel conclusion
He believes that justice is not fixed but
negotiable
 E.g. ................................................................
..........................................................................
..........................................................................
 This can be explained as the offender not
fitting social control agencies ideas of a
typical delinquent/criminal.

Topic versus resource
......................................................................
......................................................................
......................................................................
......................................................................
......................................................................
......................................................................
......................................................................
......................................................................
......................................................................
......................................................................
Task

Spend 5 minutes creating a spider diagram
which sums up the social construction of
crime.

This will be a good revision aid.

I will need a volunteer to come up to the
board and share their diagram.
Group Task

How do people become deviant ?

In your groups you will be given 5 minutes
to try and complete the puzzle.
Labelling theory – Key terminology
Objectives
1.
Understand why labelling theorist regard
crime and deviance as socially constructed,
2.
Understand the labelling process and its
consequences for those who are labelled,
3.
Be able to evaluate the strengths and
limitations of the labelling theory in
explaining crime and deviance.
The effects of labelling

Labelling theorist are interested in the effect
of labelling upon those who are labelled.

They believe that by labelling certain people
as criminal or deviant, society actually
encourages them to become more so.
What is
1.
Primary deviance -
1.
Secondary deviance -
Jock Young
Used the concepts of secondary deviance and
deviant career in his study of hippy marijuana
users in Notting Hill (primary deviance),
 Findings: .......................................................
..........................................................................
..........................................................................
..........................................................................
..........................................................................
..........................................................................

Deviance amplification

Read through the Deviance amplification
section of your handout

Complete the activity on your handout


“If we do not take steps to preserve the purity of blood, the
Jew will destroy civilisation by poisoning us all.” (Hitler,
1938)
“Surely if the human race is
under threat, it is reasonable
to segregate AIDS victims,
otherwise the whole of man- kind could be engulfed.”
(Daily Star, 1988)
Moral Panics

“The more comfortable the language of antiterrorism is to us, the more familiar the terrorist
figure who haunts us, the more entrenched that
seizure of our political imagination.” (Fortin)
Cohen’s research was a departure from traditional subcultural theory – his
emphasis was on the reaction to the disturbances which took place in
Clacton, Easter 1964. Cohen’s work deployed a synthesis of structural and
labelling theories.




The amount of serious violence had been minimal.
Most young people who had gone to the seaside did
not identify with either Mods or Rockers.
In short, the mass media had painted a distorted
picture of events.
This set in process a ‘deviancy amplification spiral.’ As
public concern was ratcheted up, the police became
sensitised to the phenomena…
The police made more arrests, the media reported more deviance, more
young people readily identified with the Mods and Rockers…the initial
disproportionate response of various state and media control agencies
generated more, not less ‘deviance.’

Cohen went further; the media had created a moral panic; ‘a condition,
episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a
threat to societal values and interests.’ These ‘folk devils’ constituted a
threat to the prevailing social order.
Deviancy Amplification Spiral
* ‘Law and public opinion stipulate that there are many ideas and opinions
which are to be condemned as outside the pale of consensus.’ (Fowler,
1991)
* ‘Deviancy amplification’ – Selective attention of crime control agencies,
news and public concern on particular aspects of perceived and real
increases in deviance = MORAL PANIC!!
So, ‘the media, wittingly or unwittingly, reproduce the
definitions of the powerful.’ (Eldridge, 1997)
 ‘More moral panics will be generated and other, as yet
nameless folk devils will be created. This is not because
such developments have an inexorable inner logic, but
because our society as presently structured will
continue to generate problems for some of its
members…and then condemn whatever solution these
groups find.’ (Cohen, 1987)
Have a think ?
Can you think of
contemporary
examples of moral
panics ?
Labelling and criminal justice
policy
................................................................................
...........................................................................
...........................................................................
...........................................................................
...........................................................................
...........................................................................
...........................................................................
...........................................................................
...........................................................................
...........................................................................
Reintegrative shaming

John Braithwaite (1989)
Disintegrative shaming
 Reintegrative shaming


Avoids stigmatisation of an offender as evil
and encourages others to forgive them and
accept them back
Evaluation of the labelling theory
......................................................................
......................................................................
......................................................................
 ......................................................................
......................................................................
......................................................................
 ......................................................................
......................................................................
......................................................................

Key terminology

Add these key terms to your sociology
dictionaries
Download

Crime and deviance