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SOCI 2445 Lecture Notes - Frank Tannenbaum, White-Collar Crime, Labeling Theory

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SOCI 2445
Darryl Davies

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Sociology of Deviance- Chapter 3 textbook notes:
Lecture 4 pg. 33-37, 41-49: Constructionist Perspective
Labelling theory:
- according to labelling theory, we should focus on the interaction between the supposed deviant
and other conventional people
- according to labelling theory, the meaning that people attach to an act is much more important
than the act itself
- labelling theory (a version of symbolic interactionism) in short says that deviance is a dynamic
process of interaction between both deviants and non-deviants
- labelling theory asks who applies the deviant label to whom? And what consequences does the
application of this label have for the person labelled and for the people who apply the label?
- according to labelling theory people who represent the forces of law and order (police officer,
parole officers, judges) typically apply the deviant label to those who have allegedly violated the
- according to labelling theory, there can be many negative consequences to a person as a result
of being labelled a deviant (they can believe they are a deviant because they are labelled as such,
and continue to commit deviant acts as a result)
- Edwin Lamert furthered a theory developed by Frank Tannenbaum, and created primary and
secondary deviance
Primary deviance- a matter of value conflict, a behaviour that society considers deviant, but the
individual doesn’t.
Secondary deviance- behaviour becomes secondary deviance when the individual comes to
agree with society’s label, and sees the behaviour as deviant
- enhanced social order is supposed to occur when certain behaviours, and as a result certain
types of people are labelled as deviant (consequences on the one’s doing the labelling are
- labelling theory has been criticized because:
1. Can’t answer the question of what initially causes one to act deviantly
2. There isn’t consistent support that the deviant label leads individuals to further deviant
3. Labelling theory cannot logically deal with hidden deviants and powerful deviants (also
suggests that powerful peple can’t be deviant because they are the only one’s who can do the
labelling. However, white collar crime exists so this can’t be true)
Conflict theory:
Cultural Conflict- discrepant norms and values that derive from definitions of right and wrong.
What is considered right in one culture is considered wrong in another.
Legal reality theory- developed by William Chambliss, states that there are two types of law.
One is law on the books, the ideal of law, and the other is the law in action, he reality of law.
- according to law on the books, legal authorities ought to be fair and just by treating all citizens
equally. However, law in action shows that legal authorities are actually unfair and unjust,
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