During the mid-1960s, criminologists debated the following question: What makes some behaviors and persons aberrant or criminal? Scholars known as “labeling theorists” or “social reaction theorists” attempted to refocus the focus of criminology on the impact of those in positions of power responding negatively to behavior in society at this time. Blumer stressed the way meaning emerges in social interaction through communication, language, and symbols in 1969.
The interaction between individuals in society, which is the foundation for meanings inside that society, is the emphasis of this approach. These thinkers believed that the state and powerful individuals cause crime by classifying certain behaviors as unacceptable. These theorists’ focus is on how members of society react to crime and deviance, which sets them apart from other researchers of the period.
Pros of Labelling Theory
There are some advantages of labeling theory which are explained as it explains that laws and legal regulations should not be taken for granted. These are defined sets of rules and regulations which hold importance in every sector or organization.
- One of the most significant techniques for analyzing deviant and criminal behavior is labeling theory. It starts with the premise that no action is inherently unlawful. These authorities maintain society’s power system by labeling people and categorizing them as deviants. The labeling theory has a lot of advantages since it explains why people with specific labels act the way they do.
- It also tries to figure out how and why labels have such a strong influence on the rest of society. This idea also explains certain people’s behavior as a result of being labeled at an early age. On the other hand, this hypothesis has several flaws, such as the fact that the upper class does not tend to be labeled; hence, this theory is prejudiced since it does not explain white-collar crime.
- If you are labeled as a delinquent, you are less likely to get work and may resort to crime to support yourself.
- One facet of this hypothesis that may be considered beneficial is that it is extremely frugal. It’s simple to comprehend and explain, dividing all criminal activity into primary and secondary deviations with a few basic sentences for each. A member of society commits an act that has been regarded as deviant or illegal. The person is subjected to a degrading ceremony in front of a personal audience, such as family or friends, or in front of a formal audience, such as a court of law, in which the person is labeled aberrant. This is what is known as primary deviance.
- When the branded individual can no longer reason or refute the criminal label, typically as a consequence of changing interactions with the “audience” that believes the person in question is a criminal, they embrace the label as a part of themselves.
Cons of Labelling Theory
There are several studies that show that labeling leads to increased crime and deviance. To put it another way, it emphasizes the unexpected effects of social control. Furthermore, the flaw in this idea is that the label does not generate deviance in the first place, and it pays little attention to the deviant’s real conduct.
- It’s basically a formal technique of telling everyone about criminal conduct done against society. No one can make someone do anything they don’t want to do; the only person who can is them. Instead of focusing on the major deviation, it focuses on the future recurrence, severely underestimating the effect that other variables have on the person’s conduct.
- Theorists of labeling focus too much emphasis on the method of labeling and overlook the reason for the deed. Anyone can attempt to deconstruct the label that has been placed on them and reinvent themselves.
- The labeling approach makes it more difficult to compare research and draw broad conclusions about why people commit crimes. Labeling theory can be applied to both positive and negative things, although it tends to favor the bad over the good. It focuses on the negative effects of someone becoming a delinquent rather than a good deed done.
- Many theorists feel that informal labels, particularly for young offenders, ethnic minorities, and those who have lived in poverty, may be extremely detrimental. The key principles of labeling theory have difficulties in a logical sense. The idea begins by stating that no actions are fundamentally illegal. That is, activities are only “criminal” when society considers them to be such.
- The assumption is that criminal law is dynamic and ever-changing and that it varies by civilization. But, if this is the case, why are certain activities prohibited in the majority of civilized countries? Murder, rape, arson, and armed robbery are all crimes that have been committed. All of these are crimes in every civilization or country that one can think of.