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NCJ Number: 73231 Find in a Library
Title: Becker and Chapman, Interactionist Criminologists - Symbolic Interactionism in Criminology as Seen by Two of its Representatives
Author(s): J E C Barrantes
Corporate Author: United Nations
Latin American Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders
United Nations
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 82
Sponsoring Agency: United Nations
San Jose, Costa Rica
Format: Document
Language: Spanish
Country: United Nations
Annotation: This article reviews interactionist theory which has contributed valuable insights to criminology by conceptualizing the effects of labeling and criminal stereotyping of deviants while analyzing the social control aspects of criminal justice.
Abstract: Interactionism is not a theory but a group of concepts based on loosely related ideologies, postulating the interaction between societal forces and deviant individuals within a comprehensive sociological framework. This complex of multidisciplinary ideas is presented here through a summary of the views of an American sociologist (Arnold M. Rose), an American criminologist (Howard S. Becker), and a British radical theoretician (Dennis Chapman). The main themes of interactionism concern the creation and application of criminal law and the relationships of social groups and of individuals to the societal power structure. The more affluent and powerful members of every society are seen as immune to the sanctions of criminal justice establishments that reflect their interests and values. Accordingly, every society singles out deviants among the members of its lower socioeconomic strata and among the socially handicapped for criminal stereotyping and labeling, thereby channeling public hostility toward these powerless individuals, who become its ritual and symbolic scapegoats. Thus, a so-called criminal act results from the interaction among its perpetrator, its victim, the police, and the members of the judicial and correctional establishments. Individuals labeled as deviants and criminals are subjected to formal and informal social controls. Interactionism recognizes the formal controls as criminal laws, the police, the courts, and prisons, while the informal controls are the moral (i.e., symbolic) restraints, both self-imposed and those marketed by moral entrepreneurs of all political and ideological hues. The interactionist idea that crime and criminals have no absolute existence outside the artificial norms created by the powerful of society is rejected as absurd in this article. However, an interactionist contribution is recognized; the horizons of sociological and criminological research have been vastly analyzed through the hypothesis of a symbolic context for deviance which parallels the physical environment in which deviant acts occur. Although the concept emerged in the highly industrialized societies of the United States and Great Britain, interactionist insights can be applied to developing, chiefly agrarian countries such as Costa Rica. Continued research into the cultural, economic, social, and political criminogenic factors peculiar to Latin American locales must be pursued to complement the theoretical interactionist framework. Footnotes contain bibliographic citations and 29 references are appended.
Index Term(s): Costa Rica; Criminology; Deviance; Effects of imprisonment; Incarceration; Interactionist theory; Labeling theory; Latin America; Offenders; Political influences; Radical criminology; Social conditions; Social control theory; Sociology; Symbolic interaction theory; United States of America; Victim-offender relationships
Note: Originally published in Bordequx, France, 1976 as 'Becker et Chapman - Deux interactionnistes.'
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