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

Critically evaluate the contribution that the Labelling theory has made to our understanding of the nature of Crime and Deviance.

Extracts from this document...


Critically evaluate the contribution that the Labelling theory has made to our understanding of the nature of Crime and Deviance. Most approaches to the understanding of crime and deviance, (except Marxism) accept there is a difference between those who offend and those who don't. However, one group of sociologists, influenced by symbolic interactionism, have questioned this approach, arguing that the approach is mistaken in the assumption that lawbreakers are different from the law-abiding. The Labelling theory is greatly influenced by symbolic interactionism and instead suggests that most people commit deviant or criminal acts, but only some people are caught and stigmatised for it. This approach to the understanding of crime and deviance is an opinion dividing one, facing many criticisms. It is unique in that, unlike other theories on crime and deviance, it argues that it is pointless trying to search for the differences between deviants and non-deviants and instead, suggests the stress should be upon understanding the reaction to, and definition of, deviance rather than on the causes of the initial act. Howard Becker made, arguably, one of the most important contributions to understanding crime and deviance through the development of labelling theory. Becker states that no act is criminal or deviant until it has been labelled as such by others, or "deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label". ...read more.


However, Liazos criticises the labelling theorists for simply exploring marginally deviant activities, by doing so, they are reinforcing the idea of pimps, prostitutes and mentally ill people as being deviant. Even by claiming to speak for the underdog, labelling theorists hardly present any challenge for the status quo. Labelling theory alerts us to the way in which the whole area of crime depends upon social constructions of reality, law creation, law enforcement and the identities of the rule breakers are thrown into question. The media play a key role in all three of these processes, as most people's perceptions of crime are actually created or at least informed by the media. British Sociologist, Leslie Wilkins showed how the response to deviance, instead of just by the individual, but by agencies such as the police and the media, can actually generate an increase in deviance. This was known as Deviancy Amplification. Wilkins stated that when acts are defined as deviant, the deviants become stigmatised and cut off from mainstream society. They become aware that they are regarded as deviants and, as a consequence of this awareness, they become more isolated and even result in developing their own subcultures, which further confirms and strengthens them in their deviance. One example of this was provided by Jock Young, who used this concept in his study of drug use in North London. ...read more.


Labelling stresses the socially created nature of mental illness and the contribution others make to the acquirement of symptoms of illness which occur after the labelling has taken place. The labelling approach has been criticise for ignoring the reality of mental illness and for failing to appreciate the very real conditions which lead certain groups to have high rates of mental illness. Often mental illness derives from a lack of material resources and meaningful relationships, which results in feelings of worthlessness and despair. Mental illness does not hit the population randomly, but us far more likely to strike the poor than the affluent; females rather than males and blacks rather than whites. Overall, while there are many criticisms of Becker's labelling theory contribution to crime and deviance it is clear that despite its criticisms, it has had a major impact on the understanding of crime and deviance. Labelling theory has provided an alternative understanding towards the nature crime and deviance. It has developed the understanding of society's reaction to, and labelling of criminals. It explores the perception of deviance from the individual and from social institutions and agenises. Although understanding crime and deviance through the development of labelling theory does not hold a complete answer or understanding, it does provide a very strong and convincing argument of what crime and deviance essentially is, and why we as a society label some people or acts as criminal or deviant. ...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. Sociological Theories on Crime and Deviance

    and public sphere (work and leisure) men exert power and social control over women. Heidensohn argues that the consequence of this is that women have fewer opportunities to commit crime and acts of deviance. Why women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence and sexual assaults - radical feminists Radical feminists such as Kelly (1988)

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

    as that of the classical school came down to us as a political science rather than a behavioural science. The nineteenth century saw the development of the biological and medical sciences and the scientists clashed with the classical school of thought.

  1. Free essay

    Assess the view that crime and deviance is the result of labelling, the media ...

    by walking in their shoes and seeing how they see the world. An example of Interactionists is labelling theorists. Rather that simply taking the definition of crime for granted, labelling theorists are interested in how and why certain acts come to be defined or labelled as criminal in the first place.

  2. describe four studies relating to crime and deviance - each from a different perspective. ...

    which had significantly increased during the 1950's and mid 60's but yet had not been highlighted and portrayed as a 'moral panic' then. Hall viewed the government and media's sudden preoccupation with street crime as an excuse to legitimise an increase in police power particularly with regards to black youths from lower class areas.

  1. Compare and evaluate Subcultural theory and labelling theory

    out these within the subculture and also they can provide a way to solve the problem of status frustration that they gained by not succeeding well within normal society. They succeed highly within the subculture by adopting the norms and values of the subculture and this gains them the self-respect, admiration and acceptance that they crave from their peers.

  2. Critically assess labelling theories contribution to the sociological understanding of crime and deviance. This ...

    However, this is not by any means inevitable and some of those who started out as convicts or drug addicts can become 'straight' and get jobs or quit their habits. When Becker identified that he took a 'sequential' approach he means how he explains deviance and at any stage in

  1. Critically assess the contribution of labelling theory to an understanding of crime and deviance

    However, this is no the case, they in fact employ what Matza labels 'techniques of neutralisation'. These are arguments which they use in order to justify their actions and get themselves out of trouble such as saying the deviant act was an accident or pointing out that no one got hurt.

  2. Realist approaches are unlike any other approach. They don't concentrate on the causes or ...

    He points to evidence from the British Crime Survey, which provides evidence that crime is real and there is more reporting of crimes and also more victims. From the results of the victim surveys Lea and Young (1984) point out that while the average chances of being a victim are small, particular groups face high risks.

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