The usefulness of Labelling within Crime and Deviance

Topics: Sociology, Criminology, Crime Pages: 4 (1579 words) Published: November 11, 2013
Usefulness of Labelling C&D
Labelling theory and its theorists focus on the groups and/or individuals who were deemed to be criminal and labelled thus by society. Labelling theorists studied the various interactions between the ‘criminal' groups and individuals and the conformist society. Labelling theory was quite popular in the 1960s and early 1970s, but then fell into decline—partly as a result of the mixed results of empirical research. This essay will go on to show the origins of labelling theory, the theory itself and will show its strengths and weaknesses using various case-studies and examples. Tannenbaum (1938) is widely regarded as the first labelling theorist. His main concept was the ‘dramatization of evil'. He stated that if a person is described as being a criminal then he automatically becomes one. Erwin Lamert (1951) founded the “societal Reaction” theory. This theory is widely credited to be the forerunner of the present day labelling theory. His theory basically states that a person experiences social deviance in two phases. The first phase is known as the Primary deviance phase. The second is known as the Secondary deviance phase. According to Lemert, the primary deviance phase begins with a criminal act. He or she is then labelled criminal but has yet to accept the label. The main point of view is whether he or she has accepted the criminal label. If the person views themselves as a criminal then the secondary deviant phase has begun. The object of whether a person views himself or herself as a criminal is what differentiates between the primary and secondary deviant phases. Lemert states that there are exceptions and people continue to stay in the primary phase, an example would be someone who rationalizes that the so called ‘criminal' act is legal as it is necessary for them to survive and earn money (an exotic dancer would be an example). The secondary deviance phase usually begins when a person has accepted the ‘criminal' label. They...
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