Matza: Theory of Drift and Techniques of Neutralisation

Matza: Theory of Drift and Techniques of Neutralisation

David Matza, a sociologist, contributed to the field of criminology with his theory of drift and techniques of neutralisation. His work sheds light on the processes through which individuals rationalise or neutralise their deviant behaviour within the context of societal norms and values. These ideas challenge the traditional view of individuals as either conforming or deviant, suggesting that many people drift between these two states.

Theory of drift: Matza proposed the concept of drift to explain the movement between conformity and deviance. He argued that individuals engage in periodic episodes of deviant behaviour while still maintaining a self-perception of being law-abiding. According to Matza, individuals experience periods of moral ambiguity and temporary suspension of social control, allowing them to drift into deviant acts. They often rationalise their actions as momentary lapses, driven by circumstances or external factors.

Techniques of neutralisation: Matza's theory of techniques of neutralisation suggests that individuals use specific cognitive strategies to justify or neutralise their deviant behaviour. These techniques allow individuals to temporarily suspend their commitment to societal norms and alleviate feelings of guilt or shame associated with their actions. Common techniques of neutralisation include denial of responsibility, denial of injury, denial of the victim, condemnation of the condemners, and appeal to higher loyalties. By employing these techniques, individuals maintain a sense of self-worth and legitimacy while engaging in deviant behaviour.

Matza recognises the fluid nature of deviance and the capacity for individuals to navigate between conformity and rule-breaking. His work highlights the complexities of criminal behaviour and provides insights into the processes of justification and rationalisation that individuals employ. It emphasises the need to understand the social and psychological mechanisms that influence individual choices and decision-making, moving beyond a simplistic view of criminal behaviour as purely driven by personal traits or moral defects.
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