Stan Cohen's Processual Model Of Moral Panic

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The term moral panic, developed by Stan Cohen (1972) in his classic ‘Moral Panics and Folk Devils’, where he is interested in the media response to The confrontation between Mods and Rockers. He found that minor incidents between the youths had been dramatized and exaggerated and the youths were being portrayed by the media as trouble makers and a threat to the shared values of society, their behaviour was identified as problematic the youths were demonized and identified as ‘folk devils’. In turn this lead to more policing in the beachside resort thus leading to increased deviant behaviour. He was particularly interested in the media’s role in creating a moral panic and how the agents of social control played their part in intensifying
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They begin when a person or group display deviant behaviours which place a threat on the values of society, they are then supported by moral crusaders, exaggerated, and distorted by the media, imposed by state legislation, then disappearing or ending to leave behind social change. Goode and Ben-Yehuda, (1994) on the other hand, argue this is not the case and moral panics are not matters that come and go within a short time frame and simply disappear, rather they leave a great impact and can be the reason behind great social changes within society. Cohen (1972) noted four groups crucial to the development of a moral panic, firstly the media who are dominant at the inventory stage of the process, providing coded images of the deviants the media have a three step part to play, exaggeration & distortion, prediction (of consequences) and lastly symbolisation. The second group are moral entrepreneurs individual or group who seek to eradicate deviance from society, the third group are the social control culture, this is police, judicial services, politicians who would introduce social control measures. Last of all the fourth set of agents are public opinion. (Chas Cratcher2008). Cohen suggests in his work that moral panics serves to reaffirm societies values at a time when they feel under threat (Cohen…show more content…
American sociologists Goode and Ben –Yehuda accepted the importance of the concept but stressed it needed more depth. In an attempt to update the concept and provide more structured indicators, they proposed the following five as indicators of moral panic (Goode and Ben-Yehuda 1994:33-39). Volatility; The sudden eruption and subsiding of concern about a newly perceived threat to society from a category of people regarded as being moral deviants. Hostility; The deviants are regarded with intense hostility as enemies of the basic values of the society and attributed stereotypes of 'evil' behaviour. Measurable Concern; Concern about the threat can be measured by sociological research methods questionnaires and attitude surveys have been suggested. Consensus; There is a consensus in significant groups within society that the threat proposes a real danger. Disproportionality; Concern about the numbers of moral deviants and the extent of the harm that they do cannot be justified by the scale of the problem. Even though the measurable concern is great, in relation to the small proportion of threatened danger and small numbers of deviants. Comparing the processual model of Cohen and the attributional model of Goode and Ben-Yehuda reveals significant similarities and considerable differences of prominence. Both agree that moral panics is an excessive form of more general processes.
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