• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Critically assess labelling theories contribution to the sociological understanding of crime and deviance. This question includes assessment of connections between crime and deviance and social theory.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Critically assess labelling theories contribution to the sociological understanding of crime and deviance. (40) This question includes assessment of connections between crime and deviance and social theory. Becker is the main sociologist studying labelling theory on deviance, he argues that 'social groups create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance.' Meaning acts only become deviant when observers perceive it and define it as deviant. An example of this would be the act of nudity, it is accepted in the bedroom between husband and wife or on a nudist camp, but when a stranger was to enter the bedroom, or someone was to streak across a sporting event, others would usually see this as deviant, and this deviancy would become a label on the individual. Several factors affect what the audience would perceive as deviant, such things as, who commits the act; when and where it is committed; who observes the act; and negotiations between those in the act. It is often those who respond to the acts who label the act deviant rather than the behaviour of the individual. To stress this, Becker uses the example of a brawl between youngsters, in a working-class area police would see the act as sign of delinquency whereas if it was to occur in a wealthy neighbourhood it would just be classed as youthful high spirits. ...read more.

Middle

* Moral panics, Stan Cohen studying youth subcultures, specifically 'mods' and 'rockers' looked at how the media concentrated on building these groups up into trouble makers due to lack of stories, because of this attention people started to decide if they were mods or rockers and accentuated the violence that took place between them. This case of moral panic can also be seen in Hall's study of mugging. Labelling theorists studying mental illness claim that mental illness is a label applied to certain people in certain circumstances as well as suggesting that the concept of mental illness is socially constructed. Thomas Scheff - a leading writer on mental illness, argues that there is no such thing as mental illness, instead all behaviour that doesn't make sense to us we just throw into a 'dustbin category' where behaviour cant be explained through drug or alcohol use. Also he suggests people can justify odd behaviour through just passing it off as common phrases such as 'they're just a bit depressed' or 'they've got a lot on their mind at the moment.' However labelling theorists have had their work criticised on many levels, and these criticisms must be examined before any evaluation of the contribution of the labelling theorists to the sociology of deviance can be made. ...read more.

Conclusion

In many cases of deviance then this secrecy will create problems. It is also very difficult for the researcher to observe the deviant individuals in their everyday lives perhaps in dangerous areas of society, as the problems of gaining the trust of what may be in some cases, violent or dangerous people. It may also be difficult for the researcher to observe impartially, or to continue to observe without being drawn in to either commit the crimes themselves or to try to prevent the crimes being committed. Becker also outlines moral problems He questions where the researchers sympathies should lie, should they side with the 'underdog' or should they judge criminal behaviour as wrong? To evaluate the contribution of the labelling theorists to the study of the sociology of deviance, it can be said that it depends on how the theory is viewed. If the theory is seen as ' a theory with all the achievements and obligations that go with the title' then it has many flaws. But if, as Becker suggests, we attempt to consider the theory as just a way of looking at deviance, then the contribution can be great, as it opened up a study of the individual after he has committed an act of deviance. It can be concluded that labelling theory continues its usefulness, as long as deviant behaviour continues to exist. Laura Edwards ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Crime & Deviance section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Crime & Deviance essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Assess the Usefulness of Official Crime Statistics to a Sociological Understanding of Crime

    4 star(s)

    White collar crime or corporate crime is usually associated with wealthy and powerful offenders and usually involves financial fraud, tax evasion or embezzlement such as the Maxwell pensions debacle but it can also be associated with breaches of health, safety or environmental law.

  2. Sociological Theories on Crime and Deviance

    Durkheim argued that suicide rates are affected by the different social contexts in which they emerge. He looked at the degree to which people feel integrated into the structure of society and their social surroundings as social factors producing suicide.

  1. Assess The Contribution Of Control Theory To Our Understanding Of Crime And Criminality

    Crimes committed against the establishment and /or the church were dealt with by brutal and bloody punishments. The origins of the concept of crime are found in the classical tradition. A conception of crime presupposes a conception of human nature.

  2. Evaluate Functionalist Theories of Crime and Deviance

    Ecological Theorists, who base their arguments on Functionalist principles, would argue that the causes of crime can be found within the physical environment- within which individuals and groups develop according to their social and physical circumstances. Tonnies, through his theories of Gemeinschaft or social relationships in a small scale environment

  1. Assess Interactionist theories of crime and deviance.

    Interactionists believe that agents of social control amplify deviance. Young's study on the police showed how their labelling caused a deviant subculture to emerge as previously integrated members of society were labelled as deviant, rejected by wider society and so grouped together to form a deviant subculture that was more deviant than before.

  2. Crime: Social construction or reality?

    They have the power to punish those who violate these laws. Marx, (1973:252) saw crime as "The struggle of the isolated individual against the prevailing conditions". Marx also believed that crime reduces the competition among labourers. According to Chambliss, (1975:226)

  1. Assess The Usefulness Of Labelling Theories In Understanding Crime and deviance

    Labelling can be said to be variable with the application of a label varying with diverse factors such as place, gender and age. This helps in our understanding of crime and deviance because the way people react to or see criminal or deviant acts may vary, for example homosexuality can be considered deviant too one person but normal to another.

  2. Compare and Contrast the Main Sociological Theories of Deviance.

    This is the approach of social positivists. These were theories of the delinquent subculture. However, these theories were developments of earlier work, notably the work of Durkheim and Merton. Durkheim rejected the definition of crime, which would constitute the commonsense of any society, that crimes are acts that are harmful to society.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work