Is concern over youth crime a moral panic? Answer with reference to recent policy changes.
The concept of societal concern over ‘youth crime’ is nothing new, from Victorian ‘street urchins’ to the modern day ‘yob’. Crime however comes in various forms from extreme acts of murder to minor vandalism or drug use, given how varied crime can be it would appear also that some crime is given more focus than others. This was first brought attention to by Stanley Cohen’s book ‘Folk Devils and Moral Panics’ (1972), he pointed out that some crime is given more attention and exaggerated so the societal response is likewise. If we are to study how youth crime is portrayed by the community, state and media alike we must understand the role of moral panics within these portrayals. And so, the purpose of this essay is to assess weather concerns and attitudes towards youth crime can be explained by and determined as truly a “Moral Panic”.
In order to assess this question fully, we must first define the concept of moral panic. Stanley Cohen was the first one to extensively use the term and very much spread its influence and use. In the opening paragraph of his book “Folk Devils and Moral Panics”, he defines moral panic as “A condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests, its nature is presented in a stylized and stereotypical fashion by the mass media…. And might produce such changes as those in legal and social policy” (Cohen 2002:1) But just as unexpectedly as it first emerges, the issue is soon forgotten (Cohen, 2002:227).
However, according to Critcher (2003), He argued that moral panic is not an observable, quantifiable or testable theory. Rather, it is a hypothetical goal at best. This presents a problem as if the concept of moral panic itself cannot be proven to exist then it is flawed and cannot be used to explain why there is such a preponderance within the media and society in general to...