Labeling Theory

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Deviance, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. There is nothing inherently deviant in any human act, something is deviant only because some people have been successful in labelling it so. J. L Simmons The definition of the situation implies that if you define a situation as real, it is real only in its consequences.


Labelling theory, stemming from the influences of Cooley, Mead, Tannenbaum, and Lemert, has its origins somewhere within the context of the twentieth century. However, Edwin Lemert is widely considered the producer and founder of the original version of labelling theory. This paper, not a summary, provides a brief history of labelling theory, as well as, its role in the sociology of deviance. It attempts
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The deviant 's response to societal reaction leads to secondary deviation by which the deviant comes to accept a self-image or self-definition as someone who is permanently locked within a deviant role. Furthermore, the distinctiveness of the approach is that it draws attention to deviance as the outcome of social imputations and the exercise of social control. Labelling theory is very complex, making it quite different than other theories. Instead of looking at why some social groups commit more crime, labelling theory asks why some people committing some action come to be defined as deviant, while others do not. Labelling theory is also interested in the effect of labelling individuals. As well, labelling theorists note that most people commit crimes at some time in their lives but not everyone becomes defined as deviant or criminal. How does this process of defining a person as deviant work? Look at a situation where a policeman holds stereotypes about typical criminals. They use these stereotypes to interpret the behaviour of suspected deviants. In other words, the closer a person comes to the stereotype held by the police, the more likely they are to be arrested, charged, and convicted of the crime. Furthermore, once someone has been successfully labelled or stigmatized as criminal or deviant, the label attached may become the dominant label.


In labelling theory, the dominant label is most often referred to as the
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