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Publisher: Sage
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: HM
Despite the fact that he introduced the concept into the sociology of deviance, Jock Young never claimed ownership of ‘moral panic’. There is little to no evidence suggest that he felt the need to keep up with the burgeoning literature on ‘moral panics studies’; rather, in much of this literature, his name is all but invisible, reduced to ‘See also Young, 1971’. This essay begins with a review of Jock Young’s original use of ‘moral panic’ before discussing how he subsequently rejected the term, and then reflecting on why and how he re-engaged with it. My position is that Jock Young was ambivalent about how the term was subsequently developed and transformed into what he viewed as: an incredulous ‘left idealist’ reaction to morally challenging issues; a mechanical sociological model used to decide on whether something was or was not a ‘boil-in-the-bag’ moral panic; and finally a dismissive journalistic judgement. In all these ‘moral panic for dummies’ usages, for Young, the volatile energizing moral dynamics of ‘action + reaction’ have been lost as has his nuanced appreciation of the shifting cultural significance of moral panic. Perhaps most significantly, the core dynamic of ‘moral indignation’ and its channelling—concerns that are present in all of Jock Young’s work—have likewise been lost in common usage of moral panic.

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