Lecture 5: Drug Crime
– extra notes
Social Constructionist and Labeling Theory – Moral Entrepreneurs
Chapter 11 - pp.135-136)
Society is made up of a conflicting plurality of groups dominated by the most
powerful, who use their power, mainly through law to stigmatize the less powerful.
“Moral entrepreneurs” and control agents determine which behaviours are criminalized
and which are not (
Legislators, lobbyists and interest groups create laws or suggest that various
behaviors be criminalized.
They have the power and authority to impose their
judgements on others.
Control agents determine which behaviours are criminalized and
which are not.
Law is the expression of the power of some people to defend their
interpretation of reality over that of others.
Law polices the boundaries of socially
constructed definitions of reality.
Crime and deviance are some people’s definitions of
what they find offensive.
Crime is a category, defined in law, that is relative to cultures,
historical period, group, social status, social context, and those who hold the power to
Some crime is statistically deviant, such as murder, while other crime is
statistically typical, such as tax evasion.
Some activities that were formally crimes are
now defined as legal, while others which were formally legal, such as cocaine
consumption, and more recently cigarette smoking, are now illegal in many contexts.
Whether a particular activity is judged criminal or not depends upon the context or
Those who have the power can offend and not be subject to legal definitions,
whereas those who do not have the power became the subject of legal processing. The
labelling process is not always fair because some people who have deviated escape public
detection and some who have not deviated are nonetheless labelled as having done so.
Moral entrepeneurs define conditions as offensive and harmful, so they have sought to
eliminate drug abuse, discourage the abuse of alcohol, reduce the availability of
pornography, and stop the exploitation of women in the workplace.
They also enforce
rules and the entrepreneurs’ legislated rules provide the enforcers (police) with jobs and
justifications for them.
The least influential members of society (i.e. the poor or certain
ethnic groups) are often caught in the web of social control and labelled deviant out of
proportion to their numbers, so deviance is, in part, created by people in society.
behaviour is behaviour that people so label.
To discover why only certain groups of
people are labelled deviant, labelling theorists also study those who make the laws that
deviants violate and the ways those laws are applied.
Why do People Become Drug Addicts and Drug Dealers?