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Elite-Engineered Moral Panics

  • By: Mathieu Deflem & Stephen Chicoine
  • In: Encyclopedia of Drug Policy
  • Edited by: Mark A. R. Kleiman & James E. Hawdon
  • Subject:Public Policy, Drug Crimes

The concept of moral panics was systematically developed and applied by Stanley Cohen in his 1972 study of the “mods” and rockers of 1960s Great Britain. Seeking to denote the disproportionate societal response to a relatively limited and not very harmful problem, Cohen argued that a “moral panic” occurred when “a condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests; its nature is presented in a stylized and stereotypical fashion by the mass media.” Since this groundbreaking formulation, many scholars have applied and theoretically extended the moral panics perspective. In the contemporary literature, three theories can be identified concerning the causal mechanisms of why moral panics take place. The elite-engineered model is one of ...

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