Sociology labelling theory 1

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Sociology labelling theory 1

  1. 1. Topic 2 Labelling theory THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF CRIME
  2. 2. JIMMY SAVILLE
  3. 3. Gary Glitter
  4. 4. Injecting drugs - which one is labelled as a crime?
  5. 5. Smoking – which one is labelled as a crime?
  6. 6. LABELLING THEORY Problem Takers• The theories we have looked at so far are ‘problem takers’ – they take the official definitions of crime and criminals for granted • People are either criminal or not, crimes are acts which break the law, criminals are people who do not obey the law • There is one theory we have looked at so far which questions this, which one is it? • The theories we have looked at look for the causes of crime – why do people resort to crime?
  7. 7. LABELLING THEORY Takes a different approach – ask how and why certain acts and certain people come to be labelled as criminal or deviant, and what effects this has on those who are so labelled
  8. 8. Crime and deviance are social constructions To the criminologists we have looked at so far ( Merton and others) crime is mainly the result of wider external social forces such as blocked opportunity structures Labelling theorists take a different or social constructionist approach (interactionism and phenomenology) – crime and deviance is the result of interactions between individuals and groups in society
  9. 9. LABELLING THEORY Deviance, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. There is nothing inherently deviant or criminal in any human act in all situations and at all times. In this view something is deviant or criminal only if people have been successful in LABELLING it as criminal/deviant. So far in our studies we have considered two examples of where laws have changed, they are?
  10. 10. LABELLING THEORY In other words it is not the nature of the act that makes it deviant but the nature of society’s REACTION to the act, individual or group. Take Mephedrone (commonly called MKAT or Meow Meow), the so-called legal high which until a couple of years ago you could buy on the internet quite legally. The government took action and made MKAT illegal. We saw another example of a drug which at one time was legal – it used to the be main ingredient in a very famous fizzy drink, what was the name of the drug, and the fizzy drink?
  11. 11. LABELLING THEORY Another good example is the criminalisation of marijuana use in 1937 in America. Becker argues that this was only done to increase the power of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics who campaigned for the law change. Although they claimed that the law change was needed because of the harmful effects on young people of marijuana use it was really done to further the power and influence of the Bureau of Narcotics. Therefore rather than the inherent harmfulness of the act the law originated from the power of a group to redefine that behaviour as unacceptable When was marijuana made illegal in the UK?
  12. 12. World-cannabis-laws
  13. 13. The founder of Labelling theory was Howard Becker – he wrote a famous book called The Outsiders ‘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’ (Howard Becker 1963)
  14. 14. Becker There is nothing intrinsically criminal about any act, it only becomes so when the label is tagged to it. ‘deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label’ Injecting heroin into an arm is not inherently deviant. It just depends on how this act has come to be defined by the agencies of social control. In fact it was legal, even celebrated by some in Britain, till what date?
  15. 15. How and why rules and laws get made Moral entrepreneurs may lead moral ‘crusades’ to change the law, or to criminalise certain activities Becker argues that this invariably has two effects: 1 The creation of a new group of ‘outsiders’ – outlaws/folk devils/deviants who break the law 2 The creation of expansion of a social control agency (such as the police) to enforce the law and impose labels on offenders
  16. 16. Platt (1969) • Argues that the idea of ‘juvenile delinquency’ was originally created as a result of a campaign by upper class Victorian moral entrepreneurs aimed at protecting young people at risk • This established ‘juveniles’ as a separate category of offender with their own courts • This enabled the state to extend its powers beyond criminal offences involving the young into so-called ‘status offences’ like truancy
  17. 17. Who gets labelled? • Not everyone who commits an offence is punished for it. Whether a person is arrested, charged and convicted depends on factors like: • Their interactions with agencies of social control (police, courts etc) • Appearance and background • Situation and circumstances of the offence • This led to labelling theorists investigating how the laws are applied and enforced...and their studies showed that agencies of social control like the police are more likely to label certain groups as deviant or criminal. Can you think which groups they might be?
  18. 18. Piliavin & Briar (1964) • Found that police decisions to arrest a youth were mainly based on physical cues (appearance) like dress and manner from which they made judgements about the youth’s character • What do we call this process? • Decisions were also based on gender, class and ethnicity, as well as time and place e.g. Those stopped late at night in ‘rough’ areas were more likely to be arrested • Also a study of ASBOs found they were disproportionately used against ethnic minorities
  19. 19. Cicourel • Answer the questions on your sheet by reading the section on page 81-2: • Cicourel – the negotiation of justice (page 81)
  20. 20. SUMMARY Labelling Theory challenges traditional theories by turning traditional ideas on their head and considering three questions: Q1 Why is some behaviour defined as criminal or deviant in some contexts but not in others? Q2 Why are some individuals or groups more likely to be defined as deviant? Q3 How do the responses of the agencies of social control effect individuals future actions?
  21. 21. In response to Q3 How do the responses of the agencies of social control effect individuals future actions? • See if you can order Becker’s 5 stage process – a process in which labelling can lead to MORE crime and deviance because of the responses of the social control agencies
  22. 22. Becker compares (secondary) deviance to a career – just like you will probably have a job career and move through a recognised career structure.STAGE ? BECKER’S FIVE STAGES DESCRIPTIONS A This may encourage further deviance. For example, drug addicts may turn to crime to support their habit since ‘respectable employers’ refuse to give them a job. B Individual is publicly labelled as deviant. e.g. They are seen as a ‘junkie’ ‘nutter’ or ‘tearaway’. C The deviant career is completed when individuals join an organised deviant group. In doing so, they confirm and accept their deviant identity. They are surrounded by others in a similar situation who provide them with support and understanding. D The official treatment of deviance may have similar effects. Ex- convicts may have difficulty finding employment and be forced to return to crime for their livelihood. E The label becomes a master status. So the labels of criminal or deviant overtake the individual’s status as a son or daughter, worker, neighbour or friend. This may lead to a rejection from many social groups. The individual may be rejected by family and friends, lose his or her job and be forced out of the neighbourhood.
  23. 23. In response to Q3 How do the responses of the agencies of social control effect individuals future actions? • See if you can order Becker’s 5 stage process – a process in which labelling can lead to MORE crime and deviance because of the responses of the social control agencies • Answer: • B • A • D • E • C

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