labeling theory Essay

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Labeling Theory

SOCIAL CONTEXT

     Heavily influenced by symbolic interactionism and Merton’s Strain theory (specifically his views on the self-fulfilling prophecy)
     Emerged in the early 1960s – rise of racial consciousness in the 1950s: “white society grew more conscious of its treatment of minority groups” (pg. 141)

“Social changes of this magnitude were bound to influence social thinkers” (pg. 141)

     Heavily influenced by the civil rights movement and the questioning of state decisions and behaviors: the country “became more critical of the prospect of government bringing equality to society… with the mistrust of government growing during the late 1960s and early 1970s, labeling was one way to critique and explain the abuses of power”

     Supreme court had outlawed segregation and schools/education became focal in social debates and political discussions

     Juvenile Justice began to account for young people’s differences from adults

     Race and Class consciousness was on the rise: the push for equal access to education began – and social scientists began to work to “overcome the previous stigma associated with being a member of a minority group” (pg. 141)


“labeling theory asked questions about crime and criminals from a new perspective, challenging previous definitions of deviance.   Those associated with labeling argued earlier theories had placed too great an reliance on the individual deviant and neglected the variety of ways people could react to deviance” (pg. 140)

LABELLING THEORY’S starting point: “why certain people were more frequently stigmatized”

SOCIETAL REACTION SCHOOL:   de-emphasizing the criminal and focusing attention back on the system (CLASSICAL SCHOOL)

Began to study the behavior of the system – not just the behavior of individuals

WHERE LABELLING THEORY DIFFERS FROM CLASSICAL
“Noting definitions of crime change from time to time and...

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