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Moral Panic Analysis

June 4, 2008
Chas Critcher 2008
Moral Panic Analysis: Past, Present and Future, Sociology Compass

Contemporary news events indicate the continuing relevance of moral panic analysis. Of two versions one is British, formulated by Stan Cohen, exemplified by the 1970s emergence of mugging. The second is American, formulated by Goode and Ben-Yehuda, exemplified by the 1980s missing children campaign. Each model conceptualises the agents and dynamics of moral panics, their causes and consequences. The models have been applied mainly to seven main areas: AIDS, child abuse, drugs, immigration, media violence, street crime and youth deviance. Empirical data have confirmed basic features of the original models and enabled generalisations about the presence and functions of moral panics in capitalist democracies. Critics express reservations about the models’ ambiguous terminology, assumptions of media effects, predetermined dynamics, and vague outcomes. Some advocate revision of the models, others their abandonment. Future development of moral panic analysis requires connection to three important sociological themes: discourse, risk and moral regulation.









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