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Assess the usefulness of subcultural theories for an understanding of crime and deviance in society today

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Introduction

´╗┐Assess the usefulness of labelling theories for an understanding of crime and deviance in contemporary society Labelling is when a definition is attached to a person and this label defines their life style. The labelling theory focuses on how and why certain acts are defined as deviant. Labelling theorist argue that there is no such thing as a deviant act because no act is deviant within itself. It only becomes a deviant act when someone labels it so. A main strength of the labelling theory is that it doesn?t state that criminals differ from the norm, but rather are the same as everyone else; therefore everyone can become a criminal. A main weakness is that the theory doesn?t explain the reasons for why deviant acts are committed in the first place and why some commit crimes and others don?t. Becker states that a deviant is simply someone to whom the label has been applied to and their act only becomes deviant when society labels it as being criminal. ...read more.

Middle

The other is secondary deviance, this is when the deviant act is publicly labelled and the person sees themselves as a criminal. This involves them being stigmatized and excluded from normal society, so the label ?criminal? becomes their master status. A person?s status of being a deviant will cause a hostile reaction from society and will affect them having a legitimate career. This can lead to a deviant career, where deviant behaviour is encouraged and rewarded; therefore it confirms a deviant identity. This shows that it?s not the act that is deviant, but the social reaction to it and their hostility towards the person. The labelling theory is useful to understand crime and deviance in society because it shows that defining deviance is a complex process, rather than simple. This is due to the fact that if the deviant act isn?t witnessed or punished then the person isn?t labelled as a criminal, but still technically is one, even though others might not see them as deviant. ...read more.

Conclusion

This theory sees deviance as coming from delinquent subcultures, which have different norms and values from mainstream society. These subcultures provide an alternative opportunity structure, as they can?t get it through legitimate means. Therefore in these subcultures, deviant behaviour is seen as normal and it is encouraged. Compared to labelling, the subcultural theory is more useful for understanding crime and deviance because it states the reasons for why people are committing deviant behaviour, which isn?t explained in the labelling theory. However it is less useful because the theory assumes that once in a subculture, you will learn and follow deviant acts, which might not be true for everyone in a subculture. Also not every criminal is part of a subculture; therefore there are might be more than one way that deviant become criminals. In conclusion, the labelling theory is the most useful for understanding crime and deviance because its shows that the definition of crime is relative and the word can?t be used to describe everyone who commits a deviant act. ...read more.

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