Walker, M K0136881 Psy1001N Introduction to core areas Labelling theory has no impact on real world decision making practices Labelling Theory in the Real World Sociology, psychology, criminology, health care, and several other fields have undeniably been affected by the ideas of the labelling theory, in one way or another…
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Although labelling theory may have influences in different settings, it does not necessarily entail that all decisions be based upon it, as will be discussed in this paper. The theory Labelling theory presents that “deviance is a socially constructed process in which social control agencies designate certain people as deviants, and they, in turn, come to accept the label placed upon them and begin to act accordingly” (Kendall, 2007, pp. 188-189). There are several versions of the theory, of which the ideas of Howard Becker, seen to be a major proponent of the theory, will primarily be considered in the present paper. One famous statement by Becker upheld in this theory is, deviant as “one to whom the label has successfully been applied; deviant behavior is behavior that people so label” (as cited in Kendall, 2003, p. 189). Making labels Becker’s work in 1963, Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance, is one of the most cited literature that focuses on labelling theory and deviance. According to him, only a few individuals have the power and qualifications to determine what is deviant or not, and they generally belong to the upper social classes (Franzese, 2009, p. 72). These individuals are called “moral entrepreneurs,” and are presented by Becker to be those who want to help the less fortunate, rather than being mean or evil (p. 72). The supposed intent of labelling was to take societal interests into consideration. However, because labeled individuals are inferior to those who have the capacity to label them in terms of power and status, the positive goal of labeling backfires to become what is usually seen to be negative and deviant to established norms. It is not emphasized how individuals can resist being labeled, but labeled individuals may be rehabilitated in the presence of interventions differing according to the deviant behavior. Consequences of labelling The labelling theory hypothesizes that deviance is not inherent, but rather a product of reaction to established societal norms, or results of societal perceptions. It presents a process where initially there is a pubic labelling which is informal at first but evolves to be formalized later; second, this label “overrides all the other symbols and statuses a person previously held,” and cause people to react very differently by rejecting or isolating the individual; and third, such label affects the individual’s self-perception and self-image, encouraging many to live according to that deviant label, or in other words accept that he or she is deviant and live according to it (Slattery, 2003, p. 135). This process outlines the consequences of labelling to the labeled individual, which are, most of the time, negative rather than positive. It is further contended that deviant behavior can be “cured” or rehabilitated, but doing so would not be easy, especially in the continuous presence of societal pressure and rejection. Labelling in the real world In the context of the theory, labelling may be formal or informal, which is also a common criticism of the ideology. Informal labels are those that tend to be placed by family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, et cetera. Formal labels are those given by health care, the police, the academe, and other institutions. Literature dealing with the theory often cite “mentally ill” as a common established label, as well as in aspects in criminology,
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