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Lecture 7

CRM302 (Criminological Theories)- Lecture 7

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Ryerson University
CRM 302
Stephen Muzzatti

CRM302-011 – Week 7: “Labelling/Societal Reaction Theory” th Monday, March 4 , 2013 - Introduction - Social Heritage - Intellectual Heritage (George Herbert Mead, Frank Tannenbaum) - Emergence of Societal Reaction Perspective (1950s and 1960s) - Lemert, Hughes, Nye & Short - Howard Becker***(study on works by John Kitsuse and DL Rosenhan, monograph & typology) - Sudnow - MIDTERM NEXT WEEK: Units 4 – 7 (13 short answer, 24 multiple choice/50 marks, 25%) --- INTRODUCTION - transgressive behaviour, deviancy, and criminal behaviour are categories and ever-changing, because they are social constructs (we create them by creating norms and codifying laws) - they are NEVER and CANNOT be inherently evil, because they are a result of social process - “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 "offender". The deviant is one to whom the label has successfully been applied; deviant behavior is behavior that people so label.” – Howard Becker - “Deviance, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder” – JL Simmons (deviance is individually assessed, and does not have an objective existence) - Are there standards for beauty? Yes. Where do they come from? They are created by the culture (such as mass media, etc.), and beauty is essentially adhering to cultural standards of beauty - Other disciplines/ topics that the societal reactionism process operates: sexuality (homosexuality has been labelled as “bad”), judgement upon appearance (example: “Halo effect”) - Most think the theory is good for explaining minor problems , but does it apply to more serious crimes? Example: Murder – isn’t murder inherently wrong? What about war and capital punishment? Answer: No – because murder is not the act, murder is a label. The act itself is killing but we create excuses or circumstances where it is allowed, such as war (fighting for freedom, fighting terrorism) and capital punishment (justice) or self-defence, so don’t think labelling theory is only for the minor crimes, it is used for serious crimes as well SOCIAL HERITAGE - this perspective emerged in the 1950s and 1960s (remember that theories are a cultural product based on the time and place of the theorist) - this was an era that had renewed attention on problematic power dynamics in society (social inequalities between men/women, racial inequalities) and these inequalities were beginning to be looked at, because people were becoming more progressively more upset with the State’s lack of ability to confront issues INTELLECTUAL HERITAGE George Herbert Mead - a symbolic interactionist who did most of his work during the 1910s and 1920s - wrote “The Psychology of Punitive Justice” (1918) where he compared the application of the criminal label to an angel with a fiery sword” (the labelling process is a process that sets the boundaries, and cuts an individual from the group - Positive contributions of labelling theory include re-awakening the conscious of the average person and the connection through labelling others Frank Tannenbaum - 20 year after Mead’s contribution, Tannenbaum wrote “Crime and Community” (1938) which introduced two concepts that set the groundwork for later criminologists - In 1920, he was sent to prison and fined 500$ for leading a protest to deal with poverty/homelessness in New York City - His theory of dramatization of evil was developed while studying activity of juvenile boys in working class communities and found them indulging in minor misbehaviours (skipping school, smoking, etc.) but the misbehaviour was being blown out of proportion by adults in a position of authority other than parents (teachers, shop owners, etc) - IF and WHEN they got caught misbehaving, the adult would overreact and this overreaction was the dramatization of evil, because while the misbehaviour is a violation of norms or rules, it is not a hanging offense and not worth such a punitive punishment -This child is now “tagged” and this tag is always negative (“disobedient child”, “insolent”, or “smoker”) and this tag displaces the rest of the child’s identity as a result of the authority figure responding to him Emergence of Societal Reaction Perspective (1950s and 1960s) Edwin Lemert - wrote “Social Pathology” (1951) because Lemert thought that all criminology theories until 1951 had not looked at deviant crimes as a structural context - he theorized that deviance should be seen as behaviour effectively disapproved of in social interaction - came up with Primary and Secondary Deviance as part of his Deviancy Amplification Spiral - Primary Deviance: deviance that is not particularly serious, and engaged in very rarely (bend/break the rules every once in a while) - This can in fact spiral into secondary if there is a punitive response before agencies of social control (setting off a deviancy amplification spiral, into secondary deviance) - Secondary Deviance: only am escalation, does not occur independently of primary deviance where we see a more frequent indulgence in more serious crimes - this heavier deviance becomes a response to the response - Example: juvenile skips school occasionally, authority figure labels them a criminal and yells at them/calls them useless, the juvenile then continuously skips school to set cars on fire = spiral of deviancy amplification Everett Hughes (1951) - responsible for the “master status” concept: understanding multiple
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