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.
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