Stanley cohen folk devils and moral panics summary

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stanley cohen folk devils and moral panics summary

Folk Devils and Moral Panics by Stanley Cohen

Stanley Cohens study of Mods and Rockers in the 1960s was a foundational text both in terms of investigating the workings of subcultural groups and identifying the concept of a moral panic generated by the media, which leads to groups being vilified in the popular imagination, and inhibits rational debate about solutions to the social problems such groups represent. The insights Cohen provides into subculture and mass morality are as relevant today as they were when the book was originally published in 1972, as illustrated by the authors introduction for this new edition, in which he tracks moral panics over the last thirty years, commenting on the demonization of young offenders and asylum seekers and on the News of the Worlds name and shame campaign against paedophiles.
Revisiting the theory of moral panic and exploring the way in which the concept has been used, this new edition features a select bibliography of key texts for further reading. The third edition of Folk Devils and Moral Panics makes available a valuable and widely recommended text.
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Stan Cohen researched the fights, which took place mainly in English seaside resorts on bank holidays, between two youth subcultures: the mods and rockers.
Stanley Cohen

Moral panic

A moral panic is a feeling of fear spread among many people that some evil threatens the well-being of society. In recent centuries the mass media have become important players in the dissemination of moral indignation, even when they do not appear to be consciously engaged in sensationalism or in muckraking. Simply reporting the facts can be enough to generate concern, anxiety, or panic. Examples of moral panic include the belief in widespread abduction of children by predatory paedophiles , [5] [6] [7] belief in ritual abuse of women and children by satanic cults , [8] concerns over the effects of music lyrics , [9] the war on drugs , [10] and other public-health issues. Some moral panics can become embedded long-term in standard political discourse , e. Marshall McLuhan gave the term academic treatment in his book Understanding Media , written in Many sociologists have pointed out the differences between definitions of a moral panic as described by American versus British sociologists.

Folk devil is a person or group of people who are portrayed in folklore or the media as outsiders and deviant , and who are blamed for crimes or other sorts of social problems; see also: scapegoat. The pursuit of folk devils frequently intensifies into a mass movement that is called a moral panic. When a moral panic is in full swing, the folk devils are the subject of loosely organized but pervasive campaigns of hostility through gossip and the spreading of urban legends. The mass media sometimes get in on the act or attempt to create new folk devils in an effort to promote controversy. Sometimes the campaign against the folk devil influences a nation's politics and legislation. The concept of the folk devil was introduced by sociologist Stanley Cohen in , in his study Folk Devils and Moral Panics , [1] which analysed media controversies concerning Mods and Rockers in the United Kingdom of the s. Though the incident only resulted in some property damage without any serious physical injury to any of the individuals involved, several newspapers published sensationalist articles surrounding the event.

He first came to London in , just before the Mods and Rockers youth riots were taking place around England. I used to go down to Margate and places like that over bank holiday weekends, conduct interviews and fieldwork. Mods were the new kids on the block, snappy dressers, riding scooters and experimenting with amphetamines. Get them both together on bank holiday weekend on the beaches of southern England, stand back and watch it kick off. Cohen became interested in the conflict between these two groups, but more interested in the way that society and the media was reacting to them. In the book, he explains that if someone is acting in a way that is not typical to what society is used to, then the media tends to extremely overreact about it.

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Moral Panic occurs when someone or something is defined by the media as a threat to the values or interests of society. The key moral panic theorist is Stanley Cohen. Stanley Cohen believes the media play an important role in enforcing moral panic, even by just reporting the news. The moral panic depicted by the media fuels further unacceptable behaviour. In extreme cases moral panic creates mass hysteria within society.


  1. Creissant M. says:

    Stan Cohen () researched the fights, which took place mainly in English seaside resorts on bank holidays, between two youth subcultures: the mods and .

  2. Vedette G. says:

    Folk devil - Wikipedia

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