Asses the usefulness of labelling as an approach to the study of crime and deviance
In the study of crime and deviance, most approaches other than Marxists, suggest that there is a difference between those who offend and those who do not, and search for key factors that lead people to offend. However, there are a group of theorist who reject this idea and instead suggest that most people commit deviant and criminal acts, but only some people are caught and stigmatised for it. Although the labelling theory is quite prominent in the study of crime and deviance, there are endorsers and criticisers who both give valid accounts to why this theory should be, or not be taken as a valid theory. Labelling theory suggests that deviancy is a social process usually related to power differences but it doesn't explain the causes of crime. It does however explain why some people or actions are described as deviant, and can help in understanding crime and deviance. According to item A labelling has changed the theoretical base for the study of criminals.
Becker emphasises the significance of crime being a social construct; an action only becomes criminal or deviant once society has labelled it so, and that crime can be argued to be a social construction. He introduced the concept of a master label, referring to the label which a person is given which overrides all other labels. When a person is labelled as negatively, society tends to tend them as such, and this master label often becomes internalised, and then a self-fulfilling prophecy occurs. This is where a person accepts their label as a criminal or deviant, and this then leads to further crime as the person attempts to live up to their label. Becker suggests that there is really no such thing as a deviant act. An act only becomes deviant when others perceive it as such.
Young studied ‘hippie’ marijuana users in the 1970’s, and found support of Beckers idea of the master label. As they were labelled negatively by the...