Crime, Deviance and Labelling

This is a short discussion piece about Labelling (and Labelling Theory) based on the following Guardian article: Smash the mafia elite: we should treat offshore wealth as terrorist finance

Aside from the issues it raises about globalisation, social class and social inequality, this article is also useful as a contemporary example of labelling theory. How, for example, the label attached to something, such as “taxation” and “welfare benefits”, changes both our perception of – and behaviour towards – it.

In terms of crime and deviance it makes for an interesting discussion to think about the contrast the article raises between:

• those who seek to minimise their tax payments: “…a large part of the UK financial industry is dedicated to scamming the rules whereby both individuals and companies pay tax on income. London is home to literally hundreds of advisory companies – many of them registered professionals in finance, accountancy and the law – whose purpose is to do only this”.

• those who seek to maximise their benefit payments: “If someone walked into a pub and announced they had found a way to scam the benefit system, they would face opprobrium or a swift, anonymous call to the benefit cheats hotline”.

One question – among many possible questions – for students to discuss is why is it considered acceptable for individuals and companies (you could include global corporations such as Google, Facebook, Starbucks and Amazon here) to seek evermore elaborate ways to avoid paying tax while similar behaviour by benefit claimants invites a very different set of labels?

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