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folk devils

folk devils A term employed most famously by Stanley Cohen in his study of the moral panic about the ‘Mods’ and ‘Rockers’ subcultures in England during the 1960s (see Folk Devils and Moral Panics, 1972
). Drawing upon interactionist approaches to the sociology of collective behaviour, Cohen suggests that society creates a gallery of social types ‘to show its members which roles should be avoided and which should be emulated’. Those groups seen as deviant, and of which society disapproves, occupy ‘a constant position as folk devils: visible reminders of what we should not be’. The term has since been used widely in other studies of representations of deviance. See also LABELLING.

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