Taking a Look at the Labeling Theory

909 WordsFeb 24, 20184 Pages
The labeling theory is one of the critical perspective sociological theories of crime. Labeling theory was the first of the critical perspectives and like the other critical perspectives, it considers defining crime, as well as applying a label to those who commit what is defined as a crime to be problematic. Among the issues addressed by labeling theory are defining deviance based on primary deviance through implementing a label on the offender, discrimination by formal institutions, as well as the public based on what is defined as deviance, and continued deviance based on the label placed on offenders, which is known as secondary deviance in the labeling theory. Unlike traditional theories of deviance that use an absolute definition of deviance, labeling theory is centered on a relative definition of deviance. Using this relative definition of deviance, labeling theorists consider deviance to be a result of the public’s perception of a behavior, rather than an actual trait of the behavior. Howard S. Becker, an originator of labeling theory, offers one of most often quoted statements related to the theory. Becker’s (1963) Outsiders states: Social groups create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance, and by applying those rules 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 others of rules and sanctions to an
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