Labeling Theory

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Intro: The labeling theory is based upon the idea that one is not considered deviant through their actions, but instead deviance is built upon from people negatively judging an individual with disparate behavioral tendencies from the cultural norm. It centralizes around the idea that deviance is relative, as nobody is born deviant, but become deviant through social processes when surrounding peers consistently label a person as deviant. Therefore, one becomes a deviant because one believes that one’s self-concept is a deviant through consistent labeling of external factors, usually from higher authoritative peers. The labeling theory therefore focuses on how one’s self-identity or behavior can be shaped and influenced by how other…show more content…
Becker’s famous book Outsiders is known to be the manifesto of the labeling theory movement among many sociologists. He describes deviance in relation to the labeling theory as that: “...social groups create deviance by making rules whose infraction creates deviance, and by applying those roles to particular people and labeling them as outsiders. From this point of view, deviance is not a quality of the act the person commits, but rather a consequence of the application by other of rules and sanctions to an 'offender. ' The deviant is one to whom that label has been successfully applied; deviant behavior is behavior that people so label" The idea of moral entrepreneurs consists of people with higher authoritative power that have the ability to create and enforce moral norms by integrating them into legal statues and prohibitations (Gomme, 2007, p. 83). This creates a social hierarchy between those with higher moral or economic interests in comparison with those of less social and economic power. Therefore, the higher social classes are the ones that create the deviant labels of nonconformists. A deviant career is the process of how one becomes a deviant. Becker relates this to the concept of a career from how one begins at the lowest position and through hard work and time he or she will continuously be promoted throughout his or her career. Each promotion affects the individual’s self-esteem, self-concept, and identity (Gomme, 2007, p. 83).

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