Summarise labelling theory and then consider its effectiveness in considering youth crime and anti-social behaviour in contemporary British society
Labelling theory is the theory of how applying a label to an individual influences their lifestyle, and how the social reaction to this label influences the individual. "...social groups create deviance by making rules whose infraction creates deviance, and by applying those roles to particular people and labelling them as outsiders. From this point of view, deviance is not a quality of the act the person commits, but rather a consequence of the application by other of rules and sanctions to an 'offender.' The deviant is one to whom that label has been successfully applied; deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label." Becker (1963) Becker theorised that the term 'deviant' is applied when an actor (individual) violates the norms and rules created by society. The label deviant is usually applied by a figure of authority or high social status, and provokes a negative social reaction. The same reaction that can be associated to an act of law breaking. Society struggles to differentiate between 'crime' and 'deviance',The two words are sometimes used interchangeably. Crime is an act that breaks 'criminal law'; resulting in formal punishment, whereas deviance is simply an act that is perceived as 'wrong'. The label devient is applied to an act that is seen as behaving outside the mores and values imposed by society. The label is not restricted to a single act or stereotype, but can be universally applied. Devience has been described as
Becker described that actors labeled as deviant will develop a self concept, meaning they will start to act as they percieve a devient to act. This is described as “self fulfilling prophesy”. As a result of labelling peoples perceptions and actions towards the actor change, this is the social response and effectivly cements the label.
Becker was influenced heavily by the...
Bibliography: Becker, Howard S. (1963). Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance. New York:Macmillan.
Weber, Max (1991), "The Nature of Social Action.", Runciman, W.G. 'Weber: Selections in Translation ', Cambridge University Press
Merton, Robert K (1968). Social Theory and Social Structure. New York: Free Press.
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