Updating Labelling Theory: Normalizing but not Enabling

  • Thomas Scheff


In modern societies we often make judgements of certain kinds of behaviour that are virtually automatic: delusions show that one is crazy, wrong answers show that one is ignorant, and so on. The theory of labelling/normalization suggests caution in making these judgements because of the effect they are likely to have on the social relationship, feelings of rejection and embarrassment. There is a social-emotional component in all human contact that can be managed independently of the content. Equal care is needed to avoid both labelling and enabling. Two extended and three brief concrete examples of normalizing are discussed. The social-emotional component seems to be critical in most relationships, both in psychotherapy and education, as suggested by the examples.

How to Cite
Scheff, T. (2017). Updating Labelling Theory: Normalizing but not Enabling. Nordic Journal of Social Research, 1. https://doi.org/10.7577/njsr.2044