THEORETICAL IMAGES The theoretical study of societal reaction to deviance has been carried out under different names, such as, labelling theory, interactionist perspective, and the social constructionist perspective. In the sociology of deviance, the labelling theory of deviant behaviour is often used interchangeably with the societal reaction theory of deviancy. As a matter of fact, both phrases point equally to the fact that sociological explanations of deviance function as a product of social control rather than a product of psychology or genetic inheritance. Some sociologists would explain deviance by accepting without question definitions of deviance and concerning themselves with primary aetiology. However, labelling theorists stress the point of seeing deviance from the viewpoint of the deviant individual.
This essay will firstly explore how labelling theory derived from action theories, followed by the consequences for the individual as a result of labelling including the contributions of the most influential labelling theorists namely Becker (1963), Lemert (1961). Furthermore, the essay will then consider the consequences when labels are applied to groups of people, as well as whether there is a typical recipient of such deviant labels. Lastly, labelling theory will be critiqued, suggesting its limitations as proposed by contrasting sociological groups. Labelling theory derived from action theories; namely
They have different ideas about the causes of crime. Subcultural theories on crime and deviance were developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s from the works of Albert Cohen(1955) and Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin(1960). They suggested that people react to forces 'external' to them, this leads them to behave in certain ways. Their behaviour is determined by social causes. Criminals behave differently from non-criminals.
However, Michel Foucalt was able to change critics’ viewpoint to see that cultural processes cause material outcomes. The authors explain that, “Foucault removed the critical aspect of determinism from his theories by talking about ‘what was possible’ in various social contexts between groups and people with varying levels of power/knowledge.” (CITE) The problem they see with this new cultural turn is that it leads from positivistic universalism into institutional and historical specification of theoretical domains and then into somewhere that theory serves only to regulate interpretation of certain events. The authors believe that the middle-range theory provides an appropriate middle point in this slippery slope. They also believe sociologists need to avoid cultural theorizing into particularism. Three different approaches are provided for new cultural sociology.
Finally, the paper will conclude with the strengths and weaknesses of Merton’s strain theory and an examination of the criminological theories and social policies it has influenced. To gain an accurate understanding of strain theories it is best to first examine their intellectual foundations. One of the most important influences on the development of strain theories was sociologist Emile Durkheim. A structural functionalist, Durkheim argued that deviance and crime were not only normal, but also served a function in society. Durkheim believed that crime served the purpose of displaying to members of society what behaviours and actions are considered unacceptable as determined by societal co... ... middle of paper ... ...y are bombarded from birth that they should desire and pursue money, power, fame, and success.
He argued that crime and punishment have the ability to provide us with much needed insight into the functioning of society. In The Division of Labour in Society which was first published ... ... middle of paper ... ...alted the funcuonal integratin of society. For Durkheim, anomie was deviant behaviour resulting from unlimited apserations. On the other hand, Merton argued that unlimited aspirations initially led to deviant behaviour. This was true when looking at Meron’s American Dream theory where cultural goals outstripped the institutional means of achieving the American Dream.
McShaneM. 2010.p110). Becker argued that labels could be applied through the social reaction of others when a deviant or criminal act had been committed he stated that “Labelling is the process of identifying, categorising and stereotyping social categories such as delinquents” (Davies.M.et.al.2010.p30). When an individual becomes labelled a criminal, people do not consider all the praiseworthy things they may have done previously, they just see that they have committed some form of deviance and are now judged within societ... ... middle of paper ... ...more stimulus for the individual to learn from (Williams.F. McShane.M.2010.p241).
Cooley's ideas, coupled with the works of Mead, are very important to labeling theory and its approach to a person's acceptance of labels as attached by society. George Mead's theory is less concerned with the micro-level focus on the deviant and more concerned with the macro-level process of separating the conventional and the condemned (Pfohl 1994). In Mind, Self, and Society (1934), Mead describes the perception of self as formed within the context of social process (Wright 1984). The self is the product of the mind's perception of social symbols and interactions (www.d.umn.edu ). The self exists in objective reality and is then internalized into the conscious (Wright 1984).
Although Mills perspective does differ from Marx, it can be used to better intercept Marx’s ideas. Mills quote, “Perhaps the most fruitful distinction with which the sociological imagination works is between ‘the personal troubles of milieu’ and the ‘public issues of social structure’ (Mills 1959: 8).” For Mills the sociological imagination is the way sociology tries to bring history and biography the two together in order to understand society better. This can become difficult to do, because a person cannot just only
Society is composed of "norms" and "sanctions." Norms are rules which mandate which things people should or should not do, say, or think in different situations(from: Sociology An Introduction). Norms are both written and non-written. The more flexible non-written norms are called "folkways." These unspoken social rules know as folkways are usually ideas or habits that society has developed overtime and which are done as almost a second nature.