Labelling Theory as One of the Reasons for Crime

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Crimes based on general understanding, are the illegal activities and a deviant behaviour of an individual or a group of people which disobey and break the rules and laws that have been implemented by the state government. Although it is illegal in the society, but it is one of the most common things happening throughout the world. There are many cases where crimes are commonly occur such as: theft, robbery, rape, physically abuse, harrasment, physically bully and more. This phenomenon has become a widely concern in many societies and such matters must be taken into consideration for a better and peaceful environment. However, there are key explanations of why crimes are happening. The reasons behind crimes can be explained through 3 types of paradigms from the studies of sociology which are; functionalist theories, interactionist theories and conflict theories. 

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First of all, in terms of functionalist perspective, there is no explanation as to why people commit crime. In fact, it explains that crime is naturally occurring within the society and it is considered as a function which benefits the society itself. Durkheim (1964) believes that crime and deviant are not entirely disadvantage, but instead, it acts as a role to help the people to develop their mindset of morals, values and new ideas. This leads the people to gather, discuss and cooperate to improve and develop the society or a country by implementing strict laws and punishments against crime. It also teaches people to understand more about humanity. For example, human trafficking is not a concern and it was considered to be normal activities in ancient times and even before the 21st century. When many types of crimes occurred, it causes concerns to many people and therefore, leads them to further research and better understanding of violent crimes, morals and humanity. A year 2003 report from the Washington stated that human trafficking is categorized as crime and they have implemented strict penalties for such crime. From that moment, other states also carried out laws and sanctions of human trafficking. Furthermore, it helps improve the socialization and good communication between the people within or outside their own society. Social and communication is considered an important part to develop the society. Therefore, without the existence of criminology, there may be a corruption in the society as it is considered as a function to the society. However, Durkheim’s views of crime as functionalist have not been satisfied by other researchers. He only pointed out within the whole society instead of explaining why specific individuals or groups of people commit crimes. Merton (1938) claims there is an anomie in the society which is the cause of crime and deviance. This simply tells that the leaders of the state have limited the purpose or objectives of the people in their lives and lack of teaching proper education in the society. Therefore, it causes distress of many people and causes the people to be lack of understanding of how society should work which leads to a rebellion, protest, deviance and crimes. This is called a dysfunction society and a contrast of Durkheim’s argument of functionalist theory.

Secondly, the reasons of people committing crimes can be explained in terms of interactionist perspective. The key objective of this theory is to discuss the labelling theory between people in different races or ethnics, different religions and labelling people in the same group are the main cause of the existence of deviance and crimes. According to Becker (1963), when people are labelling or judging a person as deviant and criminal, self-fulfilling prophecy will occur on the person that are being labelled, thus that person will be more likely to become a criminal based on what other people judge them. This phenomenon commonly occurs in prejudice or racism society between different races especially between ‘white people’ and ‘black people’ african-american. White people are seen as superior, while black people are inferior. This is where most white people used that power to judge black people as criminal. Du bois and Anderson (1903;1943) reported that innocent and unknown black people are viewed by the white people as dangerous and marked them as ‘ghetto’ which describes a low-status and a criminal. This has pressured many of the black people to commit crime in the society. Another labelling theory in terms of religion, there are many cases where Christians view Muslims as terrorists and murderers. As an example, a son of Osama bin Laden (a Muslim terrorist), Hamza bin Osama was marked as a terrorist by the United States (U.S) and he should be killed. Due to this pressure and labels, Hamza has urged to retaliate his father’s death by terrorizing the other states. This proves that the labelling of people as criminal and deviant will make it into reality. However, there are criticisms against the labelling theory. As it is mentioned before, crimes and deviant are only caused by people who label, but it is not entirely true. Tierney (1996) states that crime and deviance are also originally came from the individual itself which where the labelling theory did not explain that part. For example, Psychopath people cannot be described in labelling theory as they are committing crimes with their own will, not because of labels by other people. Another example is that people committing crimes because they want to survive due to the inequality of ranking and working class. Hence, there are many possible reasons why crimes occurred other than depending on labelling theory.

Lastly, crimes in terms of conflict theories which are theory of class conflict (Marxist Theories) and Race-conflict theory (W.E.B Du Bois). Firstly, Marx saw the theory between classes which are the capitalists or bourgeoisie and the working class or proletariat as the main conflict in the society and the source of social inequality in power and wealth. This points out that the working class people have suffered inequalities and deprivation of money. They are more likely to work hard in order to survive, but received less income. In comparison to the capitalist or the upper class, they receive more income than they should be and exploiting the lower class workers for more productions. According to Marx, this leads to a rebellion of the working classes, hence, commit crimes such as murder and homicide. Not only rebellion, but the working class might commit other crimes such as theft and robbery in order maintain their survivability due to the deprivation of receiving income. This also points out to the race conflict theories. As mentioned before, according to Du bois, the black people are marked as ‘ghetto’ which they are seen as lower class status, criminals and dangerous by the white people. Black people have also suffered deprivation due to the view of society on them and they are mostly prohibited in achieving higher ranking class. Due to the conflicts, pressure and inequalities between races; this creates rebellion and war within the society. Thus, there are many cases of black people are committing violent crimes such as murder, rape, kidnapping, vandalism and robbery than white people. However it is not convinced that lower class are the only ones that commit crime, but also the upper class which are the capitalists or the bourgeoisie. Friedrich Engels (1844) has blamed the bourgeoisie for the social murder, which is a crime. He reported that the bourgeoisie have caused their workers lives to suffer and struggle due to the exploitation of labor which are receiving limited wages, unhealthy working conditions, starvations and mental and physical exhaustion. As a result, their workers have died at an early age and they ignored the facts of their workers are dead. In fact, the bourgeoisie did not realize that they are categorized as criminals for the deaths of their workers. Instead, they thought that it is naturally happening in their society. Their egoism and ignorance is the reason of their crimes.

In conclusion, the reasons of crimes can be argued through many types of theories and views. It depends on how society sees it and what type of activities and behaviors that can be considered as 'against the law'. Different societies have different views of crimes. Some people saw specific activities of others as crimes, but others see it as norms in their society. It is the same as how Muslim societies view adultery and LGBT as crimes, but other societies did not. Therefore, the explanations of specific reasons for people who commit crimes cannot be applied to all states because there could be other or different possible reasons behind the activities of people in some societies. 

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