Folk Devils and Moral Panics (Routledge Classics)
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'...a brilliant and sutble exercise in "grounded theory".' Stuart Hall, Emeritus Professor, The Open University
'Richly documented and convincingly presented' New Society
About the Author
Professor Stanley Cohen is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics. He received the Sellin-Glueck Award of the American Society of Criminology (1985) and is on the Board of the International Council on Human Rights. He is a member of the British Academy.
- ASIN : 0415610168
- Publisher : Routledge (May 17, 2011)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 328 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780415610162
- ISBN-13 : 978-0415610162
- Item Weight : 12 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.08 x 0.74 x 7.8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #427,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Through his examination of the development of the process of deviant amplification, in essence what other writers have referred to alternatively as the ‘production of deviance,’ Cohen reveals that the development of moral panic in this instance was based on an almost identical process often used to guide disaster response efforts. The difference in this instance was however that, rather than responding to an actual crisis with actions designed to help the community, the scare mongers manufactured crisis with actions designed to help the community, though only insofar as the interests of the community and those of its most powerful and privileged sectors were understood to be one and the same thing.
Cohen describes the response to the perceived crisis as beginning with an ‘inventory’ stage involving the locating, targeting and labeling of deviants, the formulating and initiating of action plans though a ‘reaction’ phase, and letting the fear and loathing of the population aroused as a result of these two stages crystallize into a feedback loop of further deviance production and institutional repression. As Cohen demonstrates, this process coupled with the concomitant polarization of the community, served in a totally predictable and unsurprising manner to alienate the youth even more and inspire them to escalate rather than reign in the disturbances.
In lieu of actually solving the supposed problem, Cohen reveals, the latter stages of a moral panic in particular function instead to rehabilitate the ideological foundations of the status quo and the authority of those who represent it. He likewise reveals the actual causes of the disturbances on the beach and the ensuing moral panic to derive not from the wayward nature of the Mods and Rockers so much as the changing circumstances of the times, not least of which being the emergence of youth culture from which the young gained a sense of independent identity, and high unemployment which added volatility to what was already a threatening attitude of nonconformity.
In sympathy with Oplinger’s findings then, Cohen demonstrates convincingly that the process of deviance production or amplification driving the moral panic in the case of the beachside disturbances developed as a result of the fear of change of many in the community who were overwhelmed by events and either unwilling, unable or both to address the actual causes of the problem. The testimony of many young people present to being bored, at a loose end with too much time and too little structure or direction and feeling alienated from a society that didn’t seem to care about them was discounted in favour of media-driven demonization that painted them as hoodlums and thugs intentionally trying to disrupt otherwise peaceful towns for their own selfish, malevolent and vicious ends — a process that itself might have been described in similar terms.