Crime as an essential and necessary element in society: Durkheim Socializes the Law.

Durkheim proposed that crime was a normal part of society, and that crime in necessary and essential. Justice was seen by Durkheim as a moral value that was attached to the social world in various ways. Society played an important role in morality. Members of society become “individual” moral beings capable to comprehend conception of justice because they are capable to induce their notions to society and to socialize. Durkheim emphasized that moral values are always tied with other essential conditions, for instance morality is always attached to the solidarity of a social form (Pavlich, 85). In fact, with regards to Durkheim statement, one can comprehend that justice cannot be understood as a single idea but needs to be attached to the growth process of society.

Additionally, crime was considered by Durkheim to be a social problem that could only be regulated with justice. Crime was viewed as an “unambiguous violation of societal norms that must be eradicated from normal society” (Pavlich, 79). I believe that Durkheim was correct because crime is always tied to particular types of societies, and it is important as he stated “it’s normal because it is linked to the fundamental conditions of all social life” (Pavlich 79) because “there cannot be a society where individuals do not diverge more or less from the collective type” (Pavlich, 79).

Moreover, crime is always present in all societies around the world, and crime according to Durkheim is necessary because it ‘fundamental to social life, because without crime there can be no sense of what is normal and what is not. Crime performs indirectly because crime could only stop to exist if the conscience dominated the individual conscience. It also performs directly but occasionally. As a matter of fact, certain ordinary crimes in societies can alter in time and can change and be performed in different ways. Crimes are different and often offend different parts of society but are punished in different ways. Furthermore, Durkheim states that crime is normal and is an essential element in any society for many reasons. I personally believe that he is correct because any society has its crimes and in both parts crime is necessary.

With reference to a contemporary example, marijuana would be a good example because according to Marcus Felson, American soldiers in 19th century marijuana with them as a normal matter. In fact marijuana did not become a public issue until the 20th century. Indeed, consuming a small amount of marijuana is a felony in one place and a misdemeanor in a second place (Felson, 30). Actually, some jurisdictions enforce marijuana laws strictly and others mildly or sometimes rarely (Felson, 30). Not to mention, a marijuana statute can be enforced in one decade and be viewed as normal, can be ignored in another decade, and repealed in a third decade.

In fact, crime creates social solidarity because it held society together. Crime keeps people to come together because people look for a response in order to resolve social problems. Indeed, society needs crimes to live, because equilibrium is necessary and essential. Another contemporary example would be the case of Amanda Todd, how she committed suicide. Her action could be viewed by Durkheim as lack of solidarity, because repressive law would deal with penalizing actions that society as a collective view as wrong. Indeed, her behavior is wrong according to society, because it violates the social norms and social values.

In short, crime is a social fact, and is a normal element of any society because it is both “universal and necessary” to the performance of society. I certainly believe that Durkheim was right in a certain aspect about crime. Many examples were given to explain how society shapes individuals and how crime evolves in society.


Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Simpson, S.S. (Ed.). (2000). Of Crime & Criminality: The Use of Theory in Everyday Life. 


1 Comment

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One response to “Crime as an essential and necessary element in society: Durkheim Socializes the Law.

  1. Good overview of Pavlich’s remarks on Durkheim.

    Note that Durkheim did not advocate the eradication of crime, though – nor did he consider this to be a realistic objective. As you note, Durkheim believed that responding to crime created opportunities for social solidarity and norm re-affirmation.

    Could you explain how your example of uneven marijuana criminalization relates to Durkheim’s ideas? You have presented the case study, but I would like to see some further connections to Durkheim’s sociology of law.