Last Updated 27 Jul 2020

Labeling theory

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Labeling theory originated by Howard S. Becker, assumes that people in powerful positions determine what is deviant and that no act is intrinsically deviant or normal. A person, once labelled a criminal after the first deviation, will be labelled as such and this results in a secondary deviation. Brenda had a bad childhood and in order to support her drug habits she resorted to prostitution. Therefore, her resort to criminal activities, according to this theory, has to be attributed to the factors resulting from her being labelled a criminal.

Marxist feminism believes that women’s oppression has its origin in the “development of private property and of regulated family and marital relationships” and that capitalism concentrates power in the hands of a few men who own the capital . Marxist feminists state that the corruption of wage labour that is an expression of class distinctions. “Wage earning is a form of oppression, that the workers are inevitably enslaved under a system of production where, deprived of knowledge and skill, they are reduced practically to nothing .

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” Prostitution is a corruption of wage labour. Karl Marx said that “prostitution is only a specific expression of the general prostitution of the labourer . ” Brenda was addicted to drugs because of an unhappy childhood and bad companions in school. She chose prostitution as a career to cater to the needs of her children and to support her drug habit. Feminist theory advocates the rights of women based on the theory of equality of the sexes. It has branded social science as being male centred and as being a component of the hegemonic rule of patriarchy.

Hence, from this theory’s perspective, Brenda is the victim of a male dominated society as her father could sit and home and drink, while her mother had to work and this led to her feelings of insecurity, further after Brenda gave birth to her children her paramours abandoned her and she had to look after these children all by herself. Conflict theory states that crime is caused by the social and economic forces operating within society. The criminal justice system law operate for and on behalf of the rich and powerful social elites.

The criminal justice establishment aims at imposing standards of morality and good behaviour created by the powerful on the whole of society . Brenda, because of poverty and disillusionment with an unhappy childhood became addicted to drugs, and society, controlled by the rich and the elite, has made rules which condemn her as a criminal. Her poverty has made her a victim of the rich and the powerful. 2. Given the theory’s assumptions about crime’s causes and solutions, what would be an appropriate response to Brenda’s criminal activity?

Labeling theory is akin to the theory that “if the shoe fits, wears it". It suggests that social groups make deviance by making rules whose infractions constitute deviance. Therefore Brenda, who has been labelled a criminal for indulging in drugs to escape from the problems faced by her, should be rehabilitated and not jailed. According to the Marxist feminist theory, the depredations of the rich and the elite result in poverty and acts which are termed criminal, hence Brenda is not a criminal but a person who has been exploited by the rich and a victim of her circumstances.

The feminist theory states that women have been denied their rights to equality and that they have been subjugated by the men. Hence, Brenda, who has to care for her young children on her own, cannot be considered a criminal. The father or fathers of these children have to be compelled to provide economic help to Brenda for the upkeep and rearing of these children. The fact that she has become a drug addict should be addressed by providing her with psychiatric help.

Conflict theory contends that the rich and elite have formed a system of judicature that advocates their cause to the detriment of the poor and the unimportant. Therefore, according to this theory, Brenda is not a criminal. She takes drugs to help her to forget, till the time that the drug’s effect lasts, the abject misery and hopelessness of her situation. The state should rehabilitate her and not imprison her. To conclude it can be stated that Brenda has become a victim of her circumstances; at a young age when in school her father became unemployed and what is worse a drunkard.

The effect of this was that Brenda resorted to drugs and when she could no longer pay for her drug habit, she resorted to prostitution to support her small children and her drug habit. It is evident that the duty of society and of the state is to ensure that she is given such medical and psychiatric treatment as will make her forgo drugs and after that the rehabilitation of her children has to be taken up. Concomitantly, the father or fathers of these children have to be identified by DNA tests and made to pay for the upkeep of these children. Sending Brenda to jail is definitely un

Labeling theory essay

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