'techniques of neutralisation'
I am afraid that this is all that
remains from some more extensive notes on Matza's book Techniques of
Neutralisation. I hope you find this very brief summary useful nonetheless.
Matza was able to interview some
juvenile delinquents soon after they were caught by the police. He found
that far from being hardened, unrepentant, alienated enemies of society,
they were actually very often all too normal. They felt shame and guilt,
they respected normal people such as their parents, and they felt very
ambivalent about delinquency. They developed an elaborate set of justifications
to explain what they had done -- 'techniques of neutralisation':
These are not just cynical devices to
avoid punishment but are genuine feelings. Nor is their use confined to
delinquents -- we normal people use these techniques all the time, to explain
why we are late, why we have plagiarised in an essay, why we want to break
up our girlfriends, and so on.
(a) the denial of responsibility
-- they had no choice but to commit the act (to assault somebody who had
insulted them, for example)
(b) the denial of injury -- there
had been no victim, no one had really suffered (as when large stores
are shoplifted, large multinational companies defrauded, or rich people
with insurance robbed)
(c) the denial of victim -- the
victim brought it on themselves or deserved it in some way (I was
once beaten up outside a dance hall because some youths thought I deserved
it because I had danced with the wrong girls)
(d) an appeal to higher loyalties
-- I normally stick to speed limits, but I didn't want to keep my students
waiting, or I stole goods from a stall because I didn't want to disappoint
my brother on his birthday, or I just had to help my mates in a street
fight, as any proper mate would.