Crime as a Necessary Societal Function

This week’s food for thought question states that Durkheim’s sociology of law proposes that crime is a normal part of society which is necessary and indispensable. This means that law is a barometer for social norms. The idea that crime is necessary looks at the question of, what gives us, as a society, solidarity. Hunt proposes that Durkheim was mainly concerned with social solidarity. In Law & Society Redefined Pavlich notes how Hunt (1978) looked at how social solidarity asks “what is it about human society with its ever more complex interrelationships, structures and institutions which ensures not only its continuity and cohesion, but also its transformation. This is what I want to examine in this blog post, the notion that crime is necessary and the actions taken to prevent crime helps create a cohesive society.

The need for society to be cohesive is of grave importance. The point that Durkheim presents as crime being necessary is crucial because by working towards a common goal, in relation to dealing with crime, it brings the society together. If the government did not regulate crime there would be anarchy in the society. Back in the days of an eye for an eye there were unjust laws that enforced justice as revenge. At the time they may have seen this as just. However, in modern times there has been more of an approach of restitution. By this regulation of criminality society can now come together and strengthen their bonds by showing a united front against what society as a whole views as wrong.

The latest contemporary example which we had discussed in class was that of Amanda Todd. She was a young girl who committed suicide due to bullying. Most people know her story so I don’t think it is necessary to go into depth. What struck me most about this unfortunate situation is how it had to go to such an extreme before actions are taken. Not only this but also how social media as a whole has presented this to the public and the immense role that social media plays in societies view of an issue. I think it is great that the media is bringing this to the public’s attention, as it brings the community together. However, in my opinion I believe the government is not doing enough when it comes to such issues as Reno (1999) states “when incidents have been serious enough to warrant intervention by law enforcement, the traditional response has been to treat them as simple nuisance complaints” (Stewart & Fritsch, 2011)

I feel that something more needs to be done. One example of the government taking action is the case, from just a few days after the Amanda Todd death, of eight Ontario girls being arrested due to bullying. This shows that the government is no longer taking these issues as a simple complaint, but instead are choosing to act and do something. In some aspect it may be due to the immense role of the media shaping the public’s perception of this issue as a really big deal. Regardless, I think it is great that they are taking steps to ensure bullying is not taken lightly. In the article I have attached regarding the case of the 8 Ontario girls Bill Tucker states that “… the research says if an individual intervenes in bullying behaviour, we can stop bullying behaviour within seconds …in 50 per cent of cases”. I would be skeptical to accept this as a statistic because it isn’t from an academic article, yet I think it is essential to note simply the idea that by intervening in bullying it is possible to decrease or possibly stop the behaviour.

Overall, I feel that crime is necessary in a society and without it as individuals in society we wouldn’t be able to distinguish right from wrong. By having crime in society we determine the societal norms and how individuals should and should not behave. The point I have tried to examine in this blog post is that in a contemporary example of bullying, individuals need to stop stating the obvious by saying bullying is bad, and take a step and act on their thoughts in order to prevent it. By doing so it will create a unified society as we fight a united battle and show that even though we are aware that bullying exists we will not tolerate it if we witness it or hear about it. I believe this in itself will possibly prevent many cases of bullying from occurring.


Cbc News. 8 Ontario girls arrest in high school bullying case. Retrieved from:

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law and Society Redefined. Ontario, Canada: Oxford

Stewart, D.M. & Fritsch, E.J. (2011). School and Law Enforcement Efforts to Combat Cyberbullying. Preventing School Failure, 55(2), 79-87. Doi: 10.1080/104598X.2011.539440



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2 responses to “Crime as a Necessary Societal Function

  1. Good introduction.

    You note that “If the government did not regulate crime there would be anarchy in the society”. This reflects Hobbes’ argument in Leviathan – that the social contract and the central state are necessary to prevent the ‘war of all against all’. It is a common argument, and it is reflected in Durkheim’s work.

    But what evidence do we have to support this position?

    How do we know that anarchy would ensue if the government did not regulate crime? It is important to recall how small a percentage of crime is reported and responded to by formal institutions of social control. Most criminalizable behavior is either not resolved or is dealt with through alternative means. The most important and effective social controls are informal.

    Your analysis of bullying is effective and interesting. Good work. I think that you have started to explore an important issue, and I encourage you to stick with this topic in future blog posts.

    Question: Which of the two forms of law discussed by Durkheim would be most appropriate when dealing with the problem of bullying?

  2. jmzy

    I am aware that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find evidence to support the position that anarchy would ensue if the government did not regulate crime. However, I have examined some of Hobbes points, and in Leviathan he notes that’ the king’s rightful authority is rooted in his capacity to protect his subjects’. I think this is a simple yet strong statement because if we go back in history the communities would look to the king for protection and now in modern society we look to the governments who are the ‘kings’ – one could say – of our time. As far back as one can go you can see that there has been a ruler of some sort, that has paved a way for others and protected them and it is my belief if there was not someone in the position of power there would be some sort of chaos. Hobbes shows this point and calls it the ‘state of nature’ in which he claims individuals would have a right to everything in the world, which would lead to a war of all against all. Our human instinct is survival, so if an individual needed to support and protect their family, in my opinion it would lead to them doing anything to attain what they need to survive.

    To deal with the problem of bullying I believe that Durkheim’s restitutive law would be the more beneficial choice, rather than the repressive which focuses on punishment. The majority of bullying that occurs starts at a young age and I do not think it would stop the problem of bullying by locking up children and teenagers. Rather I would say a more restorative approach would help. Having the bully and victim and other individuals of support sit together and talk would be, in my view, the approach that would most likely decrease recidivism. This approach would impact the bully in a stronger sense then locking him up. It would show the bully the impact that his or her bullying had on the victim and hopefully as a result it would deter them from bullying again. By taking this restitutive approach I believe it would help the victim, the bully, and the community as well because by intervening and creating awareness of the problem of bullying, more individuals are likely to step in and take a stand against bullies rather than being a bystander.