Law and Society@Kwantlen

Durkheim’s Concept of a Normal Society


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.

Responding to this week’s food for thought, Durkheim believed that crime was necessary, indispensable and a normal part of society because “public reactions to crime can bring a community closer together and subsequently reinforce social norms and increase social consensus.” (Pavlich, 2011, p.72) Durkheim was mostly concerned with how societies were held together, a concept known as social solidarity. He believed “society as prior and external to individuals, exercising a power of constraint over them.” (Pavlich, 2011, p.73) Durkheim believed that society was independent from the people it shaped and apparently had a life of its own. According to him, individual minds were created “through social forces because there is nothing in social life that is not in the consciousness of individuals.” (Pavlich, 2011, p.74) Durkheim argued that all crimes were tied to particular types of societies and despite their usefulness or not, they were normal because they were “linked to the fundamental conditions of all social life.” (Pavlich, 2011, p.79) Simply put, Durkheim believed that crime was a normal part of society because it was universal and necessary. Crimes were universal because they exist in all societies and no society was without them. At the same time, crimes were indispensable because without crime, people could not tell the difference between what was normal and what was not. Therefore, crimes function as a moral guideline in societies. (Pavlich, 2011) The author of this musing only agrees with Durkheim partially. According to Durkheim’s theory, if an action is not criminalized then it is normal, but is that necessarily true?

Twenty seven years old Christopher Redd had been fired from his job as a grave digger in Colorado after caught on camera “gyrating and playing a simulated guitar while standing on a burial vault” and could possibly face misdemeanor charges. (The Huffington Post, Oct 2011) Months later, the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office decided not to charge him. Although not being charged, gyrating and playing a simulated guitar on a burial vault was definitely beyond “normal”. Anyone interested in the Redd story can follow the link below to watch the recorded video of him dancing.


Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.

The Huffington Post. (video/news). (2011). Colorado Grave Digger Could Be Charged For Dancing On Cemetery Grave [UPDATE, VIDEO].Retrieved from