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Examine critically the contribution of labelling theory to our understanding of deviance.

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Q.2 Examine critically the contribution of labelling theory to our understanding of deviance. This essay will critically examine the contribution of labelling theory to our understanding of deviance. Becker (1963a) defines the labelling theory as "the process where socially defined identities are imposed or adopted, especially the deviant label. Such labels may have consequences that trap the individual into that identity." According to Browne et.al (2009) the labelling theory stemmed from interactionist views of crime and deviance and suggested that many people were involved in some sort of illegal or deviant behaviour therefore making it difficult to make a distinction between deviants and non-deviants. According to Bilton et.al (1996) the labelling theory was interested in why only some individuals and acts were defined as criminal or deviant whilst similar acts carried out by others were not. The focus of the labelling theory was according to Browne et.al (2009) the level of interaction between deviants and individuals who defined them as being so, and why some groups and individuals had been defined as deviant and the circumstances around this occurrence. How responses to rule breaking was not the same in all circumstances and the process in which rules were selectively enforced. The assumptions used by figures of authority such as police officers when choosing whether or not to take action for example the compared response of an act carried out by a group of young black males or a group of young white males. ...read more.


Secondary deviance on the other hand is defined by Lemert as "a deviance that follows once a person has been publically labelled as a deviant" this occurs once an offender is discovered and publically exposed, a good example of this is the stigma attached to an individual known to have downloaded child pornography. Becker (1997) points out that a deviant label attached to an individual could become a master status and override all other characteristics such as husband, father, manager or worker. Browne et.al (2009) point that this master status is the status that others respond to and assume that he or she has all of the negative attributes of the label therefore sustaining an alternative image to the master status that is applied becomes very difficult, both in the eyes of the deviant and others. Becker (1997) suggested that a self- fulfilling prophecy and deviant careers could stem from the labelling process and social recreation. He suggested that individuals who had been labelled were out casted from society and faced serious rejection because of the label they had been stigmatised with. He believed that because these labelled individuals were placed outside conventional society they continued to act even more in the way that they had been labelled, for example when someone has been to prison they will never loose that label this may lead to further deviance because they are unable to get normal jobs because of their "ex con" status, there for seeing crime as the way of survival. ...read more.


The labelling theory has also played a very important part in the way that official crime statistics are a product of bias in law- enforcement. Although the labelling theory has many strengths it also brings with it many weaknesses according to Browne et.al these weaknesses include the fact that there is an assumption that an act is not deviant until it is labelled as such, yet many of the perpetrators of the deviant acts know perfectly well what they are doing is wrong. One of the most important criticisms of the labelling theory according to Browne et.al is "it does not explain why some people should be labelled rather that others, and why some activities are against the law while others are not, it points to the issue of power in the labelling process, but not as the Marxists have done, at the structures of power in society which create the wider framework for the labelling process." The labelling theory according to Browne et.al is too deterministic and it does not explain the causes of behaviour that is deviant which precede the labelling process, nor the different kinds of acts that people commit for example taking drugs is a completely different act in comparison to murder. Word Count {1396} ?? ?? ?? ?? Karley Ashfield 1 | Page ...read more.

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