Theories that define why some members of society break laws and others never move in such direction are spread among multiple disciplines, such as sociology, psychology, and criminology. All of these theories seek for understanding of the motivational factors of crime and claim that deviance significantly impacts it. Giddens et al. (2019) define deviance as “nonconformity to a given set of norms that are accepted by a community or society” (p. 160). Crime is an action that has severe consequences and breaks laws, and deviant behavior can lead a person to commit a crime or become dangerous for society in other ways. Sociologists are researching offense and deviance to gain more knowledge about the motivations and attitudes of people involved. Criminology uses these studies for investigations; however, different theories and approaches require more attention for deviance or crime.
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One of the theories of criminology based on sociology is the labeling theory. It mainly states that people tend to behave according to the labels put on them by society. Thus, labeling a person as deviant significantly influences them and causes crimes. The other theory is the new critical criminology approach, which advocates evaluating the impact on reasons for deviant behavior, definitions of crime, and the response of justice systems on it.
The main contrast of these theories is that labeling shows the direct connection between a person and the society that instigates them. At the same time, the critical criminology approach requires considering several factors that can affect or cause deviant behavior. Moreover, labeling theory has a more sociological basis than critical criminology. It shows how society defines crime, while critical criminology provides a broader image by including psychological, legal, and policy points. Critical criminology challenges social stereotypes that influence the way of defining criminals and judging them. In contrast, labeling theory works specifically with these stereotypes and admits that a label society puts on a person motivates the latter to act according to this label’s stereotypes.
Giddens, A., Duneier, M., Appelbaum, R.P., & Carr, D. (2019). Essentials of sociology. WW Norton, Incorporated.