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May 10, 2018 / C H Thompson

Interactionist perspective of crime – revision notes with evaluative points

Jock Young

  • Young (1971) looked into the effects of and the societal reaction to being labelled as deviant, and how it may lead to further deviant acts.
  • He carried out research into the hippie marijuana users in Notting Hill during the 1960s.
  • He Young that as the police began targeting a group of ‘hippies’, which served to widen the gap between them and conventional society.  This resulted in drug taking, which had already been an exterior activity, becoming a symbol of the groups’ defiance against the police and also became part of their status.
  • This consequently caused a deviant subculture to develop, and the hippies to internalise their label and become marginalised from society.

Young’s study showed that by simply being labelled as deviant, one can internalise the label, leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Evaluation of interactionism and crime

(+) It shows the importance of the reactions of others in defining and creating deviance.

(+) It highlights the importance of those in power in defining acts as deviant as well as the way official crime statistics are a product of bias in law enforcement.

(+) It provides insight into the nature of deviance not provided by structural theories.

(+) It shows how groups are identified and labelled accordingly.

(-) The labelling theory has been criticised for being too deterministic -> it doesn’t allow some people to choose deviance, and labelling doesn’t always lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy or more deviance.

(-) It moves the blame away from the deviant, when people who commit a deviant act know full well what they are doing.

(-) It doesn’t explain why some groups are labelled rather than others.

(-) It assumes an act isn’t deviant until labelled as such, yet many know whether they are being deviant or not.

(-) Marxists argue that interactionists fail to look at why crime is socially constructed.

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