Labelling Theory

Topics: Sociology, Criminology, Crime Pages: 5 (1599 words) Published: January 18, 2008

Labeling theory, which is also known as social reaction theory, explains how criminal careers are based on destructive social interactions and encounters. EVOLUTION OF THE LABELING THEORY- Howard Becker developed his theory of labeling in the 1963 book Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance. Becker's theory evolved during a period of social and political power struggle that was amplified within the world of the college campus. Liberal political movements were embraced by many of the college students and faculty in America. Howard Becker harnessed this liberal influence and adjusted Lemert's labeling theory and its symbolic interaction theoretical background. The labeling theory outlined in Outsiders is recognized as the prevailing social reaction approach by Lemert as well as most other sociologists Becker's approach has its roots in the symbolic interaction foundation of Cooley and Mead, and the labeling influences of Tannenbaum and Lemert. SOCIAL INTERACTION THEORY- Propounders- Charles Horton Cooley, George Herbert Mea and Herbert Blumer According to this theory:

•People communicate via symbols which include gestures, signs, words or images, that stand for or represent something else. These symbols let people know what others think about them. •Cooley develops the theoretical concept of the looking glass self, a type of imaginary sociability. People imagine the view of themselves through the eyes of others in their social circles and form judgments of themselves based on these imaginary observations. 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. •how people view reality depends upon the content of the messages and situations they encounter, the subjective interpretation of these interactions, and how they shape future behavior. •There is no objective reality. People come to a conclusion about themselves depending upon subjective interpretation of the symbols made by others. THE SUPPOSITIONS OF THE LABELING THEORY-

The suppositions of propounders of the theory, namely Edwin Lemert, Frank Tannenbaum and, Mead are discussed. 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. •People are given a variety of symbolic labels by others in the interactions. •Labels help define not just one trait, but the whole person, e.g. people labeled insane are also assumed to be dangerous, unstable, violent, strange and otherwise unsound. •There is no objective proof for any of the negative and positive labels. The negative labels may be a function of rumor, innuendo, or unfounded suspicion. •The two effects of ‘labels': they may improve or harm self image and social standing. •Consequences of labeling-

The stigma that accompanies the deviant "tag" causes a person fall into deeper nonconformity. If a devalued status is conferred by a significant other like a teacher, police officer, parent or valued peer, the negative label may permanently harm the target. The degree to which a person is perceived as a social deviant may effect his treatment at home, at work, at school and in other social circumstances. Their interaction with positively labeled people is limited by the powerful members of society. If the label is bestowed as the result of conviction for a criminal offence, the labeled person may also be subject to official sanctions ranging from small reprimand to incarceration. The negatively labeled person may identify himself as member of an outcaste group and become locked into deviance and in the criminal career. Reflective Role Taking-...
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