Moral Panic

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  • A term that has been applied to events as disparate as medieval witch trials and 20th-century public outcries over child abuse, pedophilia, violent movies, and youth subcultures. It is a concept now found more in subdisciplines of criminology and deviance literature than in general sociology, the discipline where it originated.

    Stanley Cohen studied the public and political reactions to gatherings of young adults at English resort towns in the mid-1960s. Britain was recovering from the economic austerities following World War II, and ordinary people had a little more money to spend. Young people were developing the Mods and Rockers subcultures, with distinctive clothing and music. Groups of strangely dressed Mods and Rockers converged at resort towns on holiday weekends, alarming the locals. Newspaper reports sensationalized the ...

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