Folk Devils and Moral Panics (Routledge Classics)
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'Richly documented and convincingly presented' -- New Society
Mods and Rockers, skinheads, video nasties, designer drugs, bogus asylum seeks and hoodies. Every era has its own moral panics. It was Stanley Cohen’s classic account, first published in the early 1970s and regularly revised, that brought the term ‘moral panic’ into widespread discussion. It is an outstanding investigation of the way in which the media and often those in a position of political power define a condition, or group, as a threat to societal values and interests. Fanned by screaming media headlines, Cohen brilliantly demonstrates how this leads to such groups being marginalised and vilified in the popular imagination, inhibiting rational debate about solutions to the social problems such groups represent. Furthermore, he argues that moral panics go even further by identifying the very fault lines of power in society.
Full of sharp insight and analysis, Folk Devils and Moral Panics is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand this powerful and enduring phenomenon.
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.
morality, however, is just about distinctive enough for the BSE (‘mad cow disease’) or foot and mouth disease panics not to be moral panics. Only if risk analysis becomes perceived as primarily moral rather xxxi xxxii int ro d u ct io n t o th e th i r d e d i ti o n than technical (the moral irresponsibility for taking this risk) will this distinction wither away. Some argue that this has already happened. The story of HIV-AIDS shows how the clearly organic nature of the condition can be
interpersonal processes within the groups. But there are few naturalistic accounts: of what it is like to grow up in a ghetto or a housing estate, of being at an outdoor pop concert, of taking part in a rock-and-roll riot in the fifties.1 A surprising amount of theorization in such fields as gang delinquency and race riots rests on second-hand or heavily biased sources. The relevant setting in the Mods and Rockers case, was the English Bank Holiday by the sea and all that is associated with this
26 February 1999). In the end, the Lawrence case lacked three of the elements needed for the construction of a successful moral panic. First, a suitable enemy: a soft target, easily denounced, with little power and preferably without even access to the battlefields of cultural politics. Clearly not the British police. Second, a suitable victim: someone with whom you can identify, someone who could have been and one day could be anybody. Clearly not inner-city young black males. Third, a consensus
these were signed essays written as part of normal class work might have led to the expression of views thought to be more acceptable to the teacher, and as this was a grammar school these were the views of working-class ‘college boys’ rather than ‘corner boys’. They do at least cast doubt, however, on the simplistic assumption that age differences alone will produce different reactions to such juvenile deviance as the Mods and Rockers. The way the societal reaction, and the mass media
arrests were made, the vast majority of them for offences directly or indirectly provoked by the police activity, i.e. obstruction or using threatening behaviour. There were very few cases involving damage, personal violence or drugs. There was only one offensive weapon charge: a boy carrying a steel-toothed comb.* Nine separate allegations of wrongful arrest were made in letters to the NCCL.† These came from independent sources and there is no apparent collusion. It was difficult to follow up