Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: June 02, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412971928 | Print ISBN: 9781412950855 | Online ISBN: 9781412971928| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Sherry Lynn Skaggs
Labeling theory is a criminological theory stemming out of a sociological perspective known as “symbolic interactionism,” a school of thought based on the ideas of George Herbert Mead, John Dewey, W. I. Thomas, Charles Horton Cooley, and Herbert Blumer. The first as well as one of the most prominent labeling theorists was Howard Becker (1963). Two questions became popular with criminologists during the mid-1960s: What makes some acts and some people deviant or criminal? During this time, scholars tried to shift the focus of criminology toward the effects of individuals in power responding to behavior in society in a negative way; they became known as “labeling theorists” or “social reaction theorists.” Blumer (1969) emphasized the way that meaning arises in social interaction through communication, using language and symbols. The focus of this perspective is the interaction between individuals in society, which is the basis for meanings within that society. These ...