The first criticism of the labeling theory is that it fails to explain who or who acts are decided as deviance. Becker argued that no act was deviant until it was labeled as deviant, however whether this label is applied depended upon many factors. Where it takes place, who does the act, when it takes place, who observes it , the meanings between those involved etc. However who is responsible for taking all these factors into account and deciding on whether an act is deviant or not, the labeling theory does not have an explanation of this. Therefore the theory is incomplete. This criticism is backed up by Akers 1967, who critised the labeling theory for claiming that deviants are just normal people who been labeled, however the labeling theory does not explain why some people labeled and some are not. Malinowski demonstrates in his study of incest in tribal cultures. He found that incest was no uncommon, nor frowned upon however he did find that if the incest was made public then it became more of issue. This study shows that in some societies an act can be labeled as deviant but not in others, this shows that labeling theory fails to explain who or how acts are decided as deviant.
Second criticism of the labelling theory is that is possible to reject your label. Becker said that once a person is labeled and accepts that behavior all their other qualities become irrelevant and the label become their master status. However there are example where people rejected their label. Reiss's 1961 studied young male prostitutes. Although they engaged in homosexual behavior, they regarded what they did as work, and maintained their image of themselves as being "straight" despite engaging in sex with men. This suggested that the labeling theory is open to negotiation in that some groups or individuals are to reject the label.