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"Assess the view that deviance is merely a label applied by society to the acts of others".

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Introduction

"Assess the view that deviance is merely a label applied by society to the acts of others" Interactionists consider that when examining deviance it is just as important to look at those who define the act as deviant as it is to look at the act itself. They would argue that it is the reaction of society that determines how deviant an act is, if at all. Becker's labelling theory suggests that deviance is actually created by the social groups which create and promote norms and values which are deviated from, rather than the act itself. He says that by applying these rules to outsiders and labelling them as deviant, deviance is created - therefore deviance is not created by the individual who carries out the act, it is created by the labels which are attached by others to that act. ...read more.

Middle

Becker argues that this is how deviance is in fact created, because some acts can be deviant in some cases but not in others. However, it could be argued that changing the circumstances of an act (eg. being naked in a bathroom or being naked in the street) in fact changes the act itself - because being naked in the bathroom is not actually the same act as being naked in the street. It could therefore be argued that it in this circumstance it is actually the act itself which creates the deviance and that Becker is being too general about what constitutes the 'same' act. Lemert, like Becker, also considers that society's reaction to the act is as important as the act itself when it comes to deciding what is and what is not deviant. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, Taylor, Watson and Young consider that it is wrong to assume that the social reaction to deviance is more important than the action. They say that it is more important to examine the action because according to Taylor 'we do not live in a world of free social meaning.' For example, although killing as a soldier or through self-defence can be considered not to be deviant, premeditated killing for personal gain will always be considered deviant. Often people have to choice about whether they perceive things as deviant or not. Labelling theory can also be criticised for not explaining why crime and deviance are committed. Lemert's theory of primary and secondary deviance does not explain why people commit acts even though they know them to be deviant in wider society. Amy Brewerton Sociology - Crime and Deviance ...read more.

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