Essay On Labeling Theory Of Deviance

Labelling Theory in Explaining Crime and Deviance - A2 Sociology

729 WordsNov 29th, 20123 Pages

Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the usefulness of labelling theory in explaining crime and deviance. (21 marks)
Labelling theorists are concerned with how and why certain people and actions come to be labelled as criminal or deviant, and what effects this has on those who are labelled as such. As stated in Item A, labelling theory is focused with how individuals construct society based on their interactions with each other.
Becker emphasises the significance of crime being a social construct; an action only becomes criminal or deviant once society has labelled it so, and thus crime can be argued to be a social construction. He introduced the concept of a master label, referring to the label which a person is given which…show more content…

The labelling model in the context of mental illness is concerned with the power of some groups in society to label other less powerful groups in a negative way, and label them negatively accordingly. Szasz and Scheff argue that mental illness is a socially constructed concept which is used to explain strange behaviour. To test this, Rosenhan asked 8 perfectly normal researchers to get admitted into psychiatric hospitals, and once they were admitted, they behaved perfectly normally, but remained treated as if they were mentally ill. This demonstrates the difficulties which people face in attempting to get rid of a label once it has been given by others in society.
However, labelling theory also receives many criticisms. It tends to be deterministic, inferring that once someone has been labelled as criminal, a deviant career is inevitable, whilst also shifting blame from the individual who is committing crime. Additionally, whilst it offers a reasonable explanation as to why secondary deviance occurs, it fails to explain why primary deviance is committed in the first place, before they are labelled. An alternative explanation would be the Marxist approach, who argue that the causes of crime are not due to labelling, but due to the oppression which working class people face. They argue that capitalism is criminogenic, as the very nature of capitalism is criminal as it is based on the exploitation of the working classes. By encouraging the

Show More

Labelling Theory Essay

Becker was influenced by the following: Charles Cooley's Human Nature and the Social Order (1902) examines the personal perception of oneself through studies of children and their imaginary friends. Cooley develops the theoretical concept of the looking glass self, a type of imaginary sociability (Cooley 1902). People imagine the view of themselves through the eyes of others in their social circles and form judgements of themselves based on these imaginary observations (Cooley 1902). The main idea of the looking glass self is that people define themselves according to society's perception of them ( ). Cooley's ideas, coupled with the works of Mead, are very important to labeling theory and its approach to a person's acceptance of labels as attached by society. George Mead's theory is less concerned with the micro-level focus on the deviant and more concerned with the macro-level process of separating the conventional and the condemned (Pfohl 1994).

In Mind, Self, and Society (1934), Mead describes the perception of self as formed within the context of social process (Wright 1984). The self is the product of the mind's perception of social symbols and interactions ( ). The self exists in objective reality and is then internalized into the conscious (Wright 1984). The idea of shifting the focus away from the individual deviant and looking at how social structure affects the separation of those persons considered unconventional has a great influence on how Becker approaches labeling theory. In 1938, Frank Tannenbaum presented his own approach to labeling theory in response to his studies of juvenile participation in street gangs ( ).

Tannenbaum describes the process of defining deviant behavior as different among juvenile delinquents and conventional society, causing a "tagging" of juveniles as delinquent by mainstream society ( ). The stigma that accompanies the deviant "tag" causes a person fall into deeper nonconformity (Pfohl 1994). Although Lemert discounts the influence of Tannenbaum on the development of labeling theory ( ), Tannenbaum's approach is incorporated in many societal reaction theories. Social Pathology (1951) outlines Edwin Lemert's approach to what many consider the original version of labeling theory. Lemert, unhappy with theories that take the concept of deviance for granted, focuses on the social construction of deviance (Lemert 1951).

Lemert (1951) describes deviance as the product society's reaction to an act and the affixing of a deviant label on the actor. Social Pathology details the concepts of primary and secondary deviance. According to Lemert (1951), primary deviance is the initial incidence of an act causing an authority figure to label the actor deviant. This initial labeling of a deviant act will remain primary as long as the actor can rationalize or deal with the process as a function of a socially acceptable role (Lemert...

Loading: Checking Spelling


Read more

Deviance in Society - The Sociology of Deviance

2215 words - 9 pages In everyday language, 'to deviate' means 'to stray from an accepted path' and most sociological definitions elaborate on this idea. What causes humans to act in certain ways is a disputed topic among researchers and many sociologists have tried to answer this question. This essay will critically analyse Durkheim's notion that even in a "society of saints" crime will still be found (Roach-Anleu 2006, p. 425) and further discuss the connection...

A discussion of the theory that class-based differences in educational

1044 words - 4 pages A discussion of the theory that class-based differences in educational achievement are mainly due to familial factors. Throughout the twentieth century, there have been many changes made to the structure of the education system. These include the 1944 Education act which made secondary education compulsory and introduced the tri-partite system of school, though the move to a comprehensive system of schools in the 1960’s, to the...

Evaluation of Sociological Theories

2222 words - 9 pages Evaluation of Sociological Theories Deviance can be described as: "Nonconformity with existing/traditional social norms. This nonconformity is often said to be pathological when it challenges power and privilege; yet it is said to be indicative of innovation or creativity when the gatekeepers of morality approve it. A loaded term, deviancy is a negative asset when the environment is stable but can be a positive asset to...

Application of criminology theories to movies

2907 words - 12 pages The TrackerThe film also presents a critical question of which law is closest to a consensual perspective of justice: the fanatic or trackers?It reveals an Aboriginal perspective, which allows them to define and apply their own version of deviance onto white Australia with the colonial period.The film contains references to Positivism,

Deviant Behavior

2084 words - 8 pages Deviance is described as being behaviour that is not part of the norms in your particular society. This can be different throughout the world because some cultures have very different norms (Stephens and Leach, 1998:17). Most deviant behaviour will attract disapproval from others in the society or punishment from authorities. There are many different types of deviance such as addiction, mental illness, alcoholism, criminality and homosexuality....

Sociological Viewpoint of Deviance

2968 words - 12 pages Sociological Viewpoint of Deviance Deviance is a wide-ranging term used by sociologists to refer to behaviour that varies, in some way, from a social norm. In this respect, it is evident that the concept of deviance refers to some form of "rule-breaking" behaviour. In relation to deviance, therefore, the concept relates to all forms of rule-breaking whether this involves such things as murder, theft or arson - the...

Are Criminals Born or Made?

1903 words - 8 pages As the act of criminality is a global phenomenon, there must therefore be some explanation as to why this is; some schools of thought strive to explicate this by means of genetics, whilst others take a more socially influenced approach. Although at the time, the micro-criminological theories of Lombroso and Sheldon may have appeared credible, modern research has attempted to refute such notions. In an epidemiological context, the act of crime is...

Muslims - "Labelled As Terrorists"

3835 words - 15 pages ----------------- Title-(FrontPage) ----------------- "Few of us can easily surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that The State has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied. " -- Arthur Miller "The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a...


699 words - 3 pages CARIBBEAN SOCIAL PROBLEMSThe symbolic interaction integrationist defines society as the sum of the interactions of individuals and groups according to Social Problems in a diverse society by Diana Kendall. (Kendall 2010)The Person Blame Approach seeks to explain deficiencies within the individual; it is defined by (Stanley Eitzen n.d.) as the assumptions that social person problems results from the pathologies of the individual....

The Three Main Theories of Deviance and Their Strengths and Weaknesses

2887 words - 12 pages The Three Main Theories of Deviance and Their Strengths and Weaknesses A functionalist analysis of deviance looks for the source of deviance in the nature of society rather than in the biological or psychological nature of the individual. Although functionalists agree that social control mechanisms such as the police and the courts are necessary to keep deviance in check, many argue that a certain amount of deviance...

Children of Single Parent Families and Delinquency

2027 words - 8 pages Deviance can occur in any society or home but is mostly connected and associated with broken homes. Children with single parents are believed to be at high risk of being delinquent. The reason delienquency is very likely to occur is because the child is either "motherless" or "fatherless", and this may currupt the personality of the child in many ways. This is argued may lead to a destructive delinquent future. "Bad" neighborhoods, where single...

0 thoughts on “Essay On Labeling Theory Of Deviance

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *