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Labelling Theory on Crime and Deviance - Essay Example

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Labelling Theory on Crime and Deviance

Lemert studied North Pacific Coastal Indians and examined social reactions and deviance. Lemert argued in correlation to his study was that deviance was caused by social reactions, his study found out that stuttering did not exist among American Indians and that they did not even have a word to describe speech irregularity. However the North Pacific Coastal Indians whom had a rich history involving speech as traditional ceremonies dictated and praised those who had oral abilities such as singing and speech-making. Because of this parents who usually initiate small children into the society by ceremonies such as this are very cautious and fearful of any speech impediment that their children might have. Those who failed or did not have the ability to become highly articulate were scorned and was vulnerable to peer pressure, this in return resulted a higher rate of speech defects due to cautionary fear. This was in comparison to the other American Indian societies that did not appear to label that such defects exist. Basing on the study Lemert concludes that by labeling and social awareness of such defects actually helps create them by putting anxiety and fear thus the children's inability for articulate speech. Becker's labeling theory was used by many sociologists as to how and why deviance was created but it did not address specifically as to how the labeling theory could be applied within society, what was missing from Becker's labeling theory was that although to some extent it is necessarily true that his argument of deviance and crime was somewhat similar in essence and correlated its functions with one another but deviance is by all means an act that was different from the social norm. In some cases such deviant acts are labeled as criminal and in other societies as being normal but it does not border to the question of criminality, while it is true that some acts of crime such as paedophilia warrant a psychological and even in some instances a biological defect, it is not known as to what extent the question of nature versus nurture play in creating excessively deviant characteristics (Giddens 1997:175). Becker then fails to exemplify the factor of criminality and criminals and to what extent that it becomes necessary to control criminals by labeling them as criminals.

However, in some instances Becker's arguments concerning as to what may seem deviant in one society may seem very normal in another is essential to view some aspects of deviation, when Becker argued that "deviance is not a quality of the act the person commits, but rather a consequence of the application by others," he forgets that there are certain aspects and criterion that needed to be addressed as to the phenomenon he was trying to express. It may be true that nudity in the West is frowned upon and women's breasts are taboo but in other cultures the exposure of breasts are seen as being part and parcel of everyday life and are considered asexual. Labeling in the media and society pushes people to consider that nudity is deviant, what Becker actually misses is ...Show more


In 1963, Howard S. Becker developed the labeling theory in a response towards the problem of crime and deviance. Although the early sixties was also an evolution towards the independent human spirit which later on would evolve in to the hippie era as we know it and from this scene we can understand how it was that Becker created a theory in which the labeling of a person who has committed deviant acts as being detrimental to the future of the person as well as the society in which the person is in as they will be morally judged and thus pushing them further back towards their deviance…
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Labelling Theory on Crime and Deviance essay example
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