Moral panic and critical realism: stratification, emergence and the internal conversation




Meades, James

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The concept of moral panic has enjoyed a rich history in sociological literature. Since Stanley Cohen (1972) published his seminal study on the Mods and Rockers, scholars have used the concept of moral panic to identify and explain disproportional and exaggerated societal reactions to perceived threats against the social order posed by some condition, episode, person or group of people. However, recent scholars have sought to revise or problematize Cohen’s initial conceptualization, culminating in calls to ‘rethink’ (McRobbie and Thornton, 1995) and ‘think beyond’ (Hier, 2008) moral panic, as well as to ‘widen the focus’ of moral panic analysis (Critcher, 2008). In response, my thesis seeks to strengthen the conceptual and methodological approach to the concept of moral panic by integrating the meta-theoretical principles of critical realism. Critical realism, I argue, provides both the conceptual clarity and methodological insight necessary to enhance scholarly research on moral panic. In addition, the integration of critical realism allows me to more fully explore the internal dynamics and causal mechanisms involved in the genesis of moral panic. The result is a deeper understanding of the ontological nature of moral panic.



moral panic, critical realism, ideology, hegemony