NEUTRALIZATION AND RATIONALIZATION THEORIES by Sykes and Matza
Neutralization is a type of control theory in which the offender attempts to justify future or ongoing behavior. Rationalization is when the offender attempts to justify past or present behavior. Generally, people support and conform to the law and usually condemn other lawbreakers, so they need these two theories to justify their illegal actions. Most forms of crime are clearly understood by most people as being criminal, but people may neutralize or rationalize their criminal acts as not actually being crimes. People who help someone else commit a crime may agree that the other person committed the crime, but they neutralize or rationalize their own actions as not being criminal.
Neutralization, also called verbalization by, is the process by which individuals justify their violation of accepted behavior in an effort to protect themselves from self-blame and the blame of others. They profess a conviction about a particular law but argue that special circumstances existed that caused them to violate the law in a particular situation. By using positive or neutralizing definitions of a criminal behavior that justify or excuse it in certain circumstances, persons can rationalize their own criminal behavior. But, every person who commits a crime does not need to neutralize his/her behavior since some people have little moral inhibition against committing certain types of offenses.