Food For Thought: Society Sui Generis, Durkheim, and Marx

Students in CRIM 3305 Law & Society have until October 19 to submit posts in response to the following ‘Food for Thought’ questions, based on our engagement with the works of Durkheim and Marx.

October 12 Society Sui Generis – Durkheim Socializes the Law

This lecture marks a shift in our study of socio-legal thought. Instead of viewing law as a self-contained system or a system that is influenced by broader social forces, we will consider law as a product of societies. We will review the sociology of Durkheim and consider his approach to law as a social fact. For Durkheim, society is a necessary condition for morality, and structural inequalities in society produce social problems and injustice. Law functions as an integrative mechanism to promote justice and to ameliorate social contradictions. The case study for this week will be the debates that emerged in the wake of the Toronto ‘Just Desserts’ shooting in 1994.

Food for Thought: 

Durkheim’s sociology of law proposes that crime is a normal part of society, and that it is necessary and indispensable. What does this mean? Is Durkheim correct? Discuss, with reference to contemporary examples.


October 19 Society Sui Generis – Law, Ideology, and Revolutionary Social Change

In this class, we will study the sociology of Karl Marx as it pertains to questions of law and crime in capitalist society. For Marx, law and social structures are tied to historically-determined social relations of production and related class struggles. We will study political-economic approaches to law and society and Marxist approaches to questions of law-making and crime control in capitalist society.

Food for Thought: 

“Law’s repressive coercive (material) functions are obscured by its ideological (symbolic) functions that portray it as equal, universal, and just”.

What does this mean? Do you agree? Discuss! Use contemporary examples to illustrate your response.


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