-Labelling theorists believe that crime is not inherently criminal or deviant in itself –in other words its not the nature of the act but the nature of society’s reaction to that act.
-Their view: deviance is in the eye of the beholder
‘social groups create deviance by creating the rules whose breaking constitutes deviance, and by applying those rules to particular people and labelling them as outsiders.’
-Becker believes that a deviant is simply someone to whom the label has been successfully applied to,and deviant behaviour is simply behaviour that people so label.
--Labelist theories look at how &why rules and laws get made-particularly interested in what Becker calls moral entrepreneurs-people who lead a moral ‘ crusade ’ to change the law n the belief that the it will benefit those to whom it applied.
-However,Becker argues that this law has 2 effects :
* Creation of ‘outsiders’- deviants who break the new rule.
*Creation or expansion of social control agency e.g. police to enforce rules on offenders.
-Plat argues :the new idea of ‘juvenile delinquency ’ was created as a result of a campaign by upper class Victorian moral entrepreneurs, aimed at protecting young people at risk.
-This creates ‘Juvenilles’ as a separate category of offender with their own courts and enabled the state to extend its powers beyond criminal offences involving the young, into so-called ‘status offences’ e.g truancy and sexual promiscuity.
-Becker notes that social control agencies themselves may campaign for change to laws for power e.g. US Federal Bureau of Narcotics successfully campaigned for passing of the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937 to outlaw marijuana use ,supposedly was on the grounds of ill effects on young people-Becker believes it was really to extend the Bureau’s sphere of influence
-It’s not the harmfulness of a particular behaviour that leads to law changes but efforts of powerful individuals &groups to redefine behaviour as unacceptable.
Who’s labelled ?
Not all offenders are punished, punishment depends on:
*Your interactions with social agency control e.g. police/courts
*Appearance, background &personal biography
*Situation & circumstances of the offence.
-Agencies are more likely to label certain groups of people as deviant or criminal.
-E.g. Piliavin &Briar found police decisions to arrest youth were based on physical cues e.gmanners and dress-whereby they made judgements.
-Decisions were all the also influenced by gender, class & ethnicity as well as place & time