Moral Panic

Topics: Sociology Pages: 5 (1673 words) Published: November 4, 2013

Student name: Tariro Sasa

Student number: g12s0218

Tutor: Sinazo Nomsenge

Topic: Deviance

Due: 4 October 2012

TASK: Critically discuss the idea of moral panic in the social construction of deviance. INTRODUCTION
In order to discuss the idea of moral panic in the social construction of deviance it is important that these three concepts be first defined. Only then is it possible to initiate or conduct an interrogation of the links and connections between the two main inseparable constructs, which are moral panic, and deviance. In brief deviance is defined as “violations of the norms of society” (Thompson, 2004: 2). This means that deviance is an anomie that threatens to degenerate the consensually agreed upon behaviours, values, and beliefs that society shares and deems appropriate. As acceptable ways of behaviour are converted to societal norms, and mores; deviance is simultaneously constructed by society as it defines those behaviours it collectively negatively perceives, to be taboo, folk-devilish and thereby being deviant. Hence deviance threatens the moral fibre of a society. Moral panic was originally defined by Cohen (1972:9) to be a phenomenon whereby moral entrepreneurs feed into public sensationalism of deviant behaviour, indiscriminate of its magnitude and nature. This means that moral panic is the exaggerated response by the public towards the perpetrators of deviant behaviour. In this essay I shall explain how moral panic feeds into the social construction of deviance. Thereby answering the question of how an episode of moral panic may lead to social changes and a redefining of what may be regarded as deviant, among other things. To achieve this I shall refer to a moral panic condition that emerged in Zimbabwe around November 2012, where three women were in the spotlight for being suspected of having committed about seventeen counts of rape against several different men (Vickers, 2011).

As mentioned earlier, deviance is a condition that is against socially agreed upon norms. Erikson says that, “A social norm is rarely expressed as a firm rule or official code” (Erikson, 1962: 310). This has the implication of making it an abstract concept which is largely informed by beliefs that are sourced from what Cohen (1972: 9) calls, moral entrepreneurs. These are significant players and agents with great influential power, “playing in the shaping of public opinion” (Adler & Adler, 2009: 178). The result of this is that deviance is not only an abstract concept but it is also made by collectively by a society. Since societies are already founded on principles of similarity in characteristics for example: culture, geographic location, historical background, just to mention a few; it is logical to say that they would form common standards on what is good and what is bad so that they can regulate behaviour to be in favour of the common goals they seek to achieve. Zimbabwe, as a traditional patriarchal society as emanated through its Shona culture is governed by an ideological view that women cannot rape men. Though there is a Shona saying that says musha mukadzi (meaning the woman is symbolic of the home), women are seen as subordinate to men. Because of this hierarchal interpretation, the notion of women raping men is seen as ridiculous and an anomie falling outside social norms. This, “deeply rooted mistaken belief that men are immune to being victimised” (Vickers, 2011) is not in accordance with reality that it is possible. By this the, “social dynamics surrounding the deviant act” (Aggleton, 1991:82) are laid out and this disparity then accounts for the mass moral panic that was perpetuated when the women rapist syndicate were discovered. Aggleton (1991:82) provides seven groups by which the chronological elements of deviance are able of being categorised, all with the common element of explaining the social construction of deviance. Aggleton (1991:82)...
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