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What one society may consider deviant may be acceptable to another. For example, in some parts of Africa, Indonesia and Malaysia just to mention a few, circumcision of women is a mandatory cultural practice, while in some countries such as the US considers the practice to be oppressive. This paper explains the concept using the labeling theory and also examines my personal view of deviance.
According to this theory, individuals become deviant because of two reasons; the society labels a deviant label to an individual, and the individual adopts the label by showing the behavior, attitude and actions associated with that label. This approach recognizes cultural relativity and that deviate can come from power imbalances. The theory illustrates how an individual acquires a deviant identity through deviance labels. This way, people become deviant because other people force identities on them, which they then adopt.
Labels are names that people associate with role sets or identities in society. Deviant labels are identities that fall outside cultural norms such as loner. The theory breaks down deviance into two parts. An individual gets an identity and then exhibits actions and attitudes associated with the identity. When an individual adopts a deviant identity, his or her actions and attitudes change to fit the new identity. This process is also known as retrospective labeling.
Once the society labels a deviant, in most cases, the label becomes dominant or master status, which now achieves a paramount status than all other aspects of the individual. Each label has its own prejudices and images that make others interpret in a certain way. Labeling can mould the behavior of a person especially that individual cannot shake off the label.
The theory also emphasizes on the issue of stigma on deviance. Stigma involves the disqualification of an individual from full social acceptance following a label or infamy that is hard to
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Basic questions on the causes of crime and deviance, the roots of social order, and the response of the criminal justice system have drawn the interests of some of the great thinkers of sociology (Ruggiero, South & Taylor 1998). The outcome is a remarkable line of sociological theories of crime, such as differential association, control, labelling, subcultural, etc (Carrabine, Iganski, Lee, Plummer & South 2004).
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