Society Sui Generis – Durkheim Socializes the Law

Durkheim’s sociology of law proposes that crime is a normal part of society, and that it is necessary and indispensable. This means that for Durkheim, crime is a social fact. Durkheim stated that “even in a society composed entirely of saints or holy men, there would still be crime as the exceptionally high moral standards enshrined would mean that the tiniest transgression would amount to rule-breaking, hence, a crime”(Pelovangu, 2010). He meant that even in a perfect society, it would be difficult for someone to follow every rule, and therefore even the smallest mishap would be considered a crime. Furthermore, Durkheim concluded that crime was not only indispensable, but is also necessary. Criminologists treat crime as a pathological spectacle and inquire in the mind of the criminal whereas Durkheim thought of crime as normal in terms of its occurrence, and even as having positive social functions in terms of its consequences (Coser).

He thought crime was normal in that no society could really enforce total consent to its prohibition, and even if society could, it would be so repressive as to leave no room for the social contributions of individuals: “deviance from the norms of society is necessary if society is to remain flexible and open to change and new adaptations. Where crime exists, collective sentiments are sufficiently flexible to take on a new form, and crime sometimes helps to determine the form they will take. How many times, indeed, it is only an anticipation of future morality–a step toward what will be” (Coser). Durkheim therefore argued that too much compliance coupled with too little crime was detrimental to society.
I agree somewhat with Durkheim’s statements, especially concerning the unlikelihood of a perfect society. No matter how great of a society we live in, there is always going to be a reason for people to violate the rules or laws.
A contemporary example that can be discussed along with Durkheim’s theories is the anti-terrorism legislation that is being implemented in order to enforce public fear about terrorism. Anti-terrorism legislation is bringing change and new adaptations to crime; therefore, many extreme activists are nowadays labelled as terrorists, and therefore may face consequences that heretofore did not exist.
Overall, for Durkheim to state that crime was normal meant that crime was useful “a factor in public health, an integrative element in any healthy society”(Pelovangu, 2010).

Sources

Pelovangu, R. (2010, march 5). Emile durkheim theory. Retrieved from http://suite101.com/article/emile-durkheim-criminology-and-sociology-a209663

Coser, L. (n.d.). Masters of sociological thought. Retrieved from https://www.d.umn.edu/~bmork/2111/readings/durkheimideascoser.htm

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1 Comment

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One response to “Society Sui Generis – Durkheim Socializes the Law

  1. Interesting post.

    Drawing on Coser, you say that “Criminologists treat crime as a pathological spectacle “.

    This reflects the approach of mainstream or administrative criminology, but it does not reflect the approach of critical criminologists. It is important to note that criminology is not a unitary or monolithic discipline.

    The social and legal implications of anti-terrorism legislation is an important topic, and it would make for an excellent focus for your term paper. This happens to be one of my primary areas of research. Please let me know if you would like to explore this issue further.