labelling theory Essay

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Becker was influenced by the following: Charles Cooley's Human Nature and the Social Order (1902) examines the personal perception of oneself through studies of children and their imaginary friends. Cooley develops the theoretical concept of the looking glass self, a type of imaginary sociability (Cooley 1902). People imagine the view of themselves through the eyes of others in their social circles and form judgements of themselves based on these imaginary observations (Cooley 1902). The main idea of the looking glass self is that people define themselves according to society's perception of them (www.d.umn.edu ). Cooley's ideas, coupled with the works of Mead, are very important to labeling theory and its approach to a person's…show more content…
Social Pathology details the concepts of primary and secondary deviance. According to Lemert (1951), primary deviance is the initial incidence of an act causing an authority figure to label the actor deviant. This initial labeling of a deviant act will remain primary as long as the actor can rationalize or deal with the process as a function of a socially acceptable role (Lemert 1951). If the labeled deviant reacts to this process by accepting the deviant label, and further entrenches his/herself in deviant behavior, this is referred to as secondary deviance (Lemert 1951). Lemert considers the causes of primary deviance as fluid, and only important to researchers concerned with specific social problems at a certain time.

In the years following Social Pathology, Lemert argues for the decriminalization of victimless crimes, advocates pre-trial diversion programs, and has backed away labeling determinism (Wright 1984). Howard Becker developed his theory of labeling (also known as social reaction theory) in the 1963 book Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance. Becker's theory evolved during a period of social and political power struggle that was amplified within the world of the college campus (Pfohl 1994). Liberal political movements were embraced by many of the college students and faculty in America (Pfohl 1994). Howard Becker harnessed this
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