argument top image

What are theories of deviance and crime?
Back to question

The labelling theory of crime

The Labelling Theory explains that people who deviate from social norms and roles are labelled as criminals. This theory explains that there are no intrinsically criminal acts, the only thing that makes an act a crime, is the way that people react to the act.

The Argument

The labelling theory of crime describes criminal behavior as the reactions and meanings that people give to actions that deviate from the norm. The labels on criminal behavior can shift depending on the culture. For instance, taking someone’s life may seem like an act that almost everyone can agree is criminal behavior. Yet, if that person is a soldier in war, the label changes. Similarly, if someone not from an official military kills someone, they may be labelled as either a ‘freedom fighter’ or a ‘terrorist’ depending on the beliefs of the individuals’ reactions[1]. The labelling theory also can perpetuate crime. An ex-convict may have difficulty finding a job after serving time in prison due to the fact that they would be labeled as convicts by the public. This labelling may compel a person to continue a life of crime because they believe they have no other option as an ex-convict.[2]

Counter arguments

Many critics of the Labelling Theory argue that there are many other factors in crime that this theory ignores. One of the most important of these factors is the likelihood that Ex-convicts would have many other reasons to commit crimes other than being labelled as a criminal. One of these reasons could be that ex-convicts have more opportunities to commit crimes since many of them have contacts with other criminals either from prison or before their sentence. [3]



Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Monday, 9 Nov 2020 at 06:27 UTC

Explore related arguments