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Pages 42

Labelling theory has made a key contribution to the analysis of deviance by turning away from the study of the presumed 'deviant' and focusing instead upon reactions towards deviance. In the critical and counter-cultural days of the midl960s, labelling theory was seen as the harbinger of radical new approaches. In its most explicit form, labelling theory suggested that societal reactions, far from merely being responses to deviance, may often be causal in producing deviants. Despite its enormous popularity and influence, labelling theory has been heavily criticized. Despite many new developments in the study of deviance, labelling theory has remained prominent and influential, often under newer names such as 'social constructionism'. Sanctions could, for instance, deter crime; but labelling theorists usually argue that labelling may well exacerbate, amplify or even cause crime and deviance. Labelling may initiate deviant careers, generate deviant subcultures, and sometimes the overreach of the criminal law into areas of victimless crimes may create more problems than solved.