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Moral Panics: Then and Now

Panel discussion held on 9 March 2007 (venue: The British Academy).

A British Academy discussion evening with Stanley Cohen FBA, London School of Economics, Stuart Hall FBA, Open University, and David Garland, New York University. Chair: Adam Kuper FBA, Brunel University.

Stanley Cohen coined the phrase ‘moral panics’ 35 years ago. Today, Google lists 267,000 references. Cohen’s account of the structure of moral panics has been put to use for a generation now, in studies of popular media and in accounts of apparently irrational public anxieties. Professor Cohen addressed debates about moral panics in the social sciences. Stuart Hall, who pioneered modern studies of the mass media, reflected on how the term ‘moral panics’ was taken up and developed in Cultural Studies. The distinguished criminologist David Garland discussed the ways in which moral panics influence crime policies and, more generally, serve as an instrument of social control.

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