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Labeling theory is one of the first theories to propose that the reaction, not the act is what makes something deviant. Labeling theorists believe that labeling and reacting to offenders as “criminals” has unanticipated negative consequences, deepening the criminal behavior and making the crime problem worse. They believe that the criminal justice system is dangerous in the sense that it is “casting the net” of social control too widely.

Frank Tannenbaum first developed the main concept of labeling theory in 1938. Tannenbaum was perhaps the first labeling theorist. His main idea was the dramatization of evil. He argued that giving a label to an individual or giving them special treatment becomes a way of stimulating, suggesting, and evoking the same misconduct complained of.

Edwin Lemert is regarded as the founder of what is called the “societal reaction” approach; this approach distinguishes between primary deviance (where individuals do not see themselves a deviant, or are only in the initial stage of deviance) and secondary deviance (which involves taking on the role of deviant status). Primary deviance comes from a wide variety of reasons, biological, psychological, or sociological. Secondary, (intensified deviance) becomes a means of defense or adaptation to the problems caused by societal reaction to primary deviation.

Many consider the founder of labeling theory Howard Becker. “Moral entrepreneur” was a term and concept of Beckers, a term used to describe individuals who lead campaigns to guide certain behaviors by making them criminal. Labeling theorists believe the justice system exercises a lower-class bias in rounding up offenders, and that statistics are useless as a measure of how much crime is really out there (black number of crime), but useful in measuring class, race, and gender bias (since mostly urban poor black males are arrested). Sometimes these

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Frank Tannenbaum And Primary Deviance. (April 3, 2021). Retrieved from