Labelling they are labelled as deviant by

Labelling theory proposes that the key concept of a crime is a socially constructed one; those who are morally weak-minded and prone to breaking laws are labelled as deviant and criminal, predicated upon stereotypical assumptions and assertions by the authorities; due to this, the self-identity and behaviour of an individual can be affected, and this may result in secondary deviance and rejection from society (Haralambos, 1996, pp. 248-249).Labelling theory is associated with the Integrationists theory, this theory also argues that people don’t become criminal because of their social upbringing but because they are labelled as deviant by societies and authorities. Becker, who introduced the concept of labelling theory, advises that an act just turns deviant when people discern it as such, and inherently deviance is a false concept (Haralambos and Holborn).An act that is not publicly labelled as deviance is known as primary deviance and it doesn’t have long-term effect (Browne, Blundell, Law and Whalley, 2014, p. 419). For example, if a child steals a book from his friend, the child’s parents teach the child not to learn such bad habits, and ask the child to return the book and apologise to the friend.

After the incident the child never again commits such behaviour; this kind of behaviour is referred to as primary deviance. However, if the child doesn’t listen to the parents and continues to steal, he/she won’t be able to refrain from stealing a socially unacceptable crime like stealing other people’s property. When the police catches the offender, there will be punishment for this crime and will be viewed as a thief by rest of society. Therefore, an act that is publicly labelled as a deviant is known as secondary deviance and this will have a long-term effect on a persons’ life (Browne, Blundell, Law and Whalley, 2014, p. 419).

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Strength of labelling theoryThis theory argues that the law is often enforced in discriminatory ways by authorities and certain types of people are singled out for labelling. Police routinely target young black men and search them for drugs and ignore white men who may be carrying cocaine (Davenport, 2016). It shows that, due to being labelled as criminal, people are forced into being criminals and deviant. Labelling theorists explains that some people may have strength to overcome the negative label, while others may not be able to gain enough support and strength to reject the label. Due to lack of strength and Support to reject the negative labelling, they may produce a self-fulfilling prophecy, which they are are forced to accept and are then treated according to their label (Haralambos, 1996).

 Weakness of labelling theoryMany sociologists complain that labelling theory doesn’t explain why people in the first place commit primary deviance before they are labelled. This theory presumes that once a person is labelled their deviance will inevitably increase.  Ackers argues that even though people have not been labelled, they might simply believe they actually are deviant (haralambos and Holborn).

This theory does not pay attention to possibility of rehabilitation; they believe that society should change as crime happens not because of criminality but because of society’s labelling. Sociologists complain that this theory fails to explain why some one is labelled and another is not, and why some activities are against the law and others are not. Functionalist theory Functionalist theory is one of the major theoretical perspectives of sociology; this theory believes that crime and deviance is inevitable and universal, as some people cannot socialise properly into the shared norms and values, so crime and deviance occurs, and some activities, which are considered normal and legal in one culture, may not be considered so in another culture. Durkheim believes in 3 key ideas about crime and deviance: he believes that a limited amount of crime and deviance is necessary, there are positive functions of crime, and an excessive amount of crime and deviance is bad for society, and leading to the destruction of society. Functions of crime and deviance as mentioned by functionalist theoryFunctional theory argues that crime and deviance are necessary for the maintenance and functioning of a society.

It believes change is important for all societies to remain stable and healthy, and has mentioned that when the level of crime is either too high or too low, crime proceeds from functional to dysfunctional. Therefore, if the crime is too excessive, it jeopardizes the social order and if too low, social change doesn’t occur. Crime acts as a warning device, as it indicates that society is not functioning well, and this draws attention to the problem within the society,n and disapproval, without harming a society and other peoples’ feelings.  and the problem can be solved. Durkheim believes that crime and deviance is an integral part of all healthy society, and a certain amount of crime and deviance is normal because it acts as a “safety valve” and provides safe methods for some people to convey their dissatisfactio”For example, prostitution enables men to escape from family life without undermining family stability” (Harlambos and Holborn).Crime maintains social regulation; when a crime happens and criminals get arrested, societies become aware that there are some actions and behaviour, which are unacceptable and need to be avoided.Crime also strengthens social cohesion; social cohesion is group of people functioning together as a unit. Merton, who observed American culture, mentioned that this society is grown into the “American dream” of having lots of wealth and material possession; he believes that everyone will be happy in a balanced society, but American society is not balanced because they struggle a lot to achieve this dream and sometimes use inadequate ways to acquire their dream; this behaviour is named as a strain to anomie by Merton, and this kind of behaviour causes crime in society (as cited in Haralambos and Holborn ).

Weakness of functionalist theory Durkheim hasn’t mentioned exactly how much crime is at the “right” level for society.Marxist theory argues that functionalist theory ignores and fails to acknowledge why crime and deviance occurs in the first place.Labelling theory argues that functionalists do not mention that the authorities are the main reason why crime happens, but is not caused by the society we live in. Marxist theory Marxist theory is concerned with who makes the law and who benefits from these laws; it argues that those in power create laws, which represents and do justice to the ruling class. This theory also argues that the white-collar crimes, which are committed by rich and powerful people in a society, are often ignored and crime and crime committed by the poor and less powerful are focused on and taken as more serious. Marxist believes that capitalism is responsible for crime. When rich people commit crime such as fraud and tax evasion, they get away or suffer less severe punishment with it, due to their social position/status, wealth and power and how the wider population and law view them positively compared to how working class people are viewed.

Marxist theory argues that crime is a natural response to capitalist society; Marxist philosophy suggests  that “all property is theft”.Chambliss argues that crime is committed at all levels with in society, as crime in capitalist society is encouraged by greed, possession, personal gain rather than collective well-being and hostility (2001, cited in haralambos and Holborn).People compete in this world to survive; people who succeed gain power, money, and recognition in society, but people who fails in frustration, commit crime just to survive.

Strength of Marxist theoryThis theory clearly explains the relationship between crime and capitalist society; it explains that crime does not occur due to moral and biological defects but due to the defects within the social structure-capitalism.”Marxist argue that white collar and corporate crime are neglected by society because they are both likely to be carried out by the capitalist class or its agents” (Chapman, 2004, p. 136). Marxist theory clearly explains that law protects and does justice to the ruling class and discriminates against the working class.

Weakness of Marxist theoryThis theory fails to mention that there also are capitalist societies where crime rates are low, for example in comparison to the USA, Japan and Switzerland have low crime rates. Feminists argue that Marxist theory has failed to mention the significance of patriarchy that affects the criminal justice system and abandoning the significance of racism in the prosecution of the law (Haralambos and Holborn).This theory ignores individuals’ motivation of crimes and focuses mostly on how capitalism and power forces people to act in certain ways, which are perceived, as deviant. In conclusion, this essay has explained why crime happens, it has defined crime and deviance from different theoretical approaches, and has provided different examples and theorist views to support the answers and conclusions.


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