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He grew up in South Africa and was an undergraduate at the University of Witwatersrand. He came to London in 1963, worked as a social worker, then went to LSE where he completed his Ph.D. From 1967, he lectured at the University of Durham and in 1972 became Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex. In 1980, he moved with his family to Israel, where he was Director of the Institute of Criminology at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He also worked with human rights organisations dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He came to LSE as a Visiting Professor in 1994, and in 1996 was appointed Professor of Sociology.
A leading writer on criminology, he is credited with coining the term moral panic in his 1972 study (Folk Devils and Moral Panics) of the popular UK media and social reaction to the Mods and Rockers phenomenon of the 1960s. It includes the Deviancy Amplification Spiral. Cohen suggests the media overreact to an aspect of behaviour which may be seen as a challenge to existing social norms. However, the media response and representation of that behaviour actually helps to define it, communicate it and portrays it as a model for outsiders to observe and adopt. So the moral panic by society represented in the media arguably fuels further socially unacceptable behaviour.
- Page at LSE site
- Stan Cohen: Folk Devils and Moral Panics
- Stan Cohen: States of Denial: knowing about atrocities and suffering
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