Social Constructionist Crime and Deviance

757 Words4 Pages
Outline and Assess social constructionist explanations of crime In the 1960s, the interactionist school of sociological thought was revolutionary in its new way of viewing crime. Becker, the predominant sociologist of the movement argued that there is no such thing as a deviant act; rather the reaction to an act makes it deviant. He also points out how an act may be perceived differently in different contexts using the example of a brawl involving working class males (in working class area – delinquency, in middle class area – youthful high spirits). Becker also identified the process of labelling, first an act is labelled deviant for the individual who committed the act, and this status can become their master status. This in some cases can perpetuate the deviant behaviour and result in the individual embarking on a deviant career. Young did a study on marijuana smokers in London. He added to Becker’s process the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy. This had a major impact on sociology as in many ways it completely contrasted with the `subcultural’ movement (eg Cohen, Cloward & Ohlin) and Merton’s strain theory. Rather than focusing on social situations, the criminal and deviant act, the interactionists focused on the reaction to the act and its effects on the deviant individual. One main possible criticisms of interactionist theory is that to some extent ignores and privatisation and its effect on crime. Can negative labelling be the only reason that crime is predominantly more in working class area than in middle class ones? The “new criminology” was a radical development of traditional Marxist theory (Young, Walton and Taylor) they attempted to combine the process of labelling with Marxist explanations of social inequality to explain crime. A criticism of both the original interactionists and the new criminology came from the “New Left Realists”
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