Labelling Theory Essay

714 Words3 Pages
Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the usefulness of labelling theory in explaining crime and deviance (21 marks) As stated in item A the labelling theory ‘explains how actions become labelled as criminal or deviant in society’. This theory has provided many sociologists with a basis to suggest reasons as to why people commit crime in society. These sociologists take a micro-approach to crime and deviance and look at individuals rather than make generalisations based on society as a whole. Becker wrote the book ‘The Outsiders’ which sort to provide an explanation as to why not everyone is labelled as a criminal even if they have committed crime. He proposed three reasons as to why; their interactions with the police, their appearance, and the circumstances of their arrest. These three things, in Becker’s view, contributed to a person being labelled by the police and by society on the whole as a criminal. Item A further addresses Becker’s proposal stating, ‘deviant or criminal individuals are only labelled when their actions are discovered and provoke a reaction from society’. He claimed that a crime is only a crime if it is labelled as that by society. This would suggest that through the labelling theory crime is socially constructed and is only perceived as a crime when society labels it as that. This theory offers evidence as to why some people are labelled as criminals, whilst others who commit the same crime are not. Becker argues that the labelling theory is useful in explaining crime and deviance as it provides evidence as to why some people are seen as ‘criminals’ when a large proportion of society have indeed committed what would be deemed as a criminal act. Cicourel conducted a study on the Metropolitan Police service (MPS) to find out if the procedures and policies they followed influenced the way in which they treated certain people.
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