Sociology 100 Theories Chapter Six: Deviance and Social Control: Sickos, Perverts, Freaks, and Folks Like Us
While reading the material on deviance proposed in Chapter Six of “Sociology: 100 Theories,” I found myself truly interested in the issue. Partially because the scientific explanations of the phenomena are surprisingly adequate and understandable, partially because the examples the chapter gives are so lifelike that it is impossible to deny or reject the given concepts and theories.
The one theory explaining the nature of deviant actions and the place of deviance in the society that I found the most interesting is the Labeling Theory. It tells about how the deviant behavior has two levels, primary and secondary one, and how social negative labeling of individual’s actions unavoidably moves a person from the initial level to the final one. It also explains how labels make a person keep with the “self-fulfilling prophecy”, which can often provoke person’s becoming not what he or she truly represents. For example, being repeatedly called dumb one will finally accept the label and start to act in accordance with other people’s expectations. Moreover, the theory explains how labels can be imposed on or not, depending on the social status a deviant individual or a group of individuals acting in a deviant way has.
The reason the mentioned theory attracted my greatest attention is that in my opinion it refers to the most critical issues of social interactions. We all belong to some sort of societies; we all are a part of it. Fortunately or not, human beings are created to live in groups. Practically, not a single person, except but some rare cases, can exist separately from others. Our private life, the way we cherish own individuality, are generally the fruits of human vanity. The truth is, we all realize subconsciously how we are dependent on social environment we live in. In my opinion, humanity suffers from the scourge of labeling. And it is topical when talking not only about deviant behavior, it infects the everyday life of each person in the world.
I believe everyone have experienced the power of social labels. We usually depend too much on what other people say of us. Unfortunately, many individuals lack ability to react reasonable and to distinguish between what is worth and what is not worth listening to. Everyone has to be taught to react cleverly to what other people say or think about you. Spoiling one’s life by unwise, poorly considered assumptions and conclusions is a luxury one cannot allow oneself to afford.
Every individual is labeled in some way. We all live with those labels and they usually affect our lives to some extent. Personally I feel sick of being judged by someone rather shallow and stupid. When a person I dislike tells we what to do and how to act, when I notice censuring sidelong glances provoked by my actions regarded as those deserving disapproval, I feel like running away somewhere nobody will judge my case and watch me living my life.
When talking about how such labels can provoke a person to act in a deviant way, we refer to a more critical subject. If you treat some people like if they are dregs of society, and they eventually turn into the ones, – doesn’t it makes you think of how would it all be different without your influence? When labels provoke individuals to commit crimes, I believe it’s time to think about how we can reduce the significance of labeling in our lives, or how can we do away with the whole thing. What is deviance if not a violation of accepted rules, of what is believed to be normal? And who decides what is actually normal? We see how the situation differs throughout the world, how the understanding of what is normal changes over the times and places. So do we really have to accept some norms as those the only possible true ones? Or do we sometimes have to think on our own when deciding on what is fine to do and what is not, and what are the consequences of our actions?
The Theory of Labeling is great because it explains how wrong the system of social attitude forming is. It indirectly reminds us to be reasonable and thoughtful when expressing own opinion about other people. It also emphasizes that thinking well before trustfully accepting social dogmas is useful.
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