Folk Devils and Moral Panics
'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.
What people are saying - Write a review
Many criticisms appearing but they tend to ignore the context of the book and the detail of the theory set out by Cohen. It is a classic text for good reason. The way society responds to social problems shapes the way we deal with it - that can be good but it can also be harmful and unproductive. A key problem is politicians increasingly lack moral conviction so tend to be directed by the clamour of the crowd. Understanding the creation of folk devils and the response - remember Cohen does not say there is not a problem, it is the simplification and exaggeration that becomes more of an issue. Also, don't ignore the significance of social anxiety - this helps to explain why specific episodes hit the headlines and not others. And the moral panic as something that is short-lived.