Crime, is it really necessary?

Emile Durkheim suggests that crime is a normal part of society and that it is necessary and indispensable. What he means in this statement is that, in order for a normal functioning society there must be the existence of crime. Crime is normal and can be found in all societies across the world. As societies gradually advance over time simultaneously so do crime rates. Although, every society has the existence of crime there is still a difference in the types and rates of crime that occur in any given society. For example, advanced societies will see more advanced and contemporary forms of crime such as identity theft, fraud or embezzlement of funds and developing societies experience crimes that are more suitable to their environment such as property crimes.

A society without crime is what many people wish for; they wish to achieve this form of utopia. However, societies where there are very low rates of crime are often dysfunctional and do not allow for any social change. For example North Korea does not release statistics on their crime rates nonetheless it has been noted that violent crime is very rare, and that street crime is also uncommon. [1] Varying political, and economic factors contribute and influence the rate of crime at any given point in time. In this example of North Korea, there is no organized free media, religious freedom, or political opposition citizens in this country are essentially prisoners to the government and there is no advocacy for social change out of fear.

Open, and flexible countries with freedom have crime and deviant behavior. It is more desirable to live in a society with crime because these societies are ones that promote social change. Societies are strengthened when there is crime because they are able to come together as a cohesive group and advocate for changes and promote beliefs and values. Often times a public outcry for change is met, reaffirming to citizens that their ideals and ethics do hold merit with the government.

Deviance serves major functions to society according to Durkheim; it affirms our cultural values and norms and clarifies moral boundaries. It also promotes social unity and encourages social change.[2] A society without crime is an ideal place for many, (so they may think.) However, a society without crime is society without any progress.


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One response to “Crime, is it really necessary?

  1. You note that: “As societies gradually advance over time simultaneously so do crime rates”. This implies a linear relationship between the evolution of societies and crime rates.

    I wonder about this. Two phenomena give us reason to question this assertion. First, we are currently in the midst of a long-term decline in officially-recorded crime rates in Canada. This has been ongoing since the 1990s. This would seem to suggest that crime rates can decline as a society advances (and what do we mean by ‘advance’?). Second, societies with similar economic, political, and social systems have vastly different crime rates. Compare the US and Canada or the US and Scandinavian states, for example.

    Your argument regarding the relationship between open societies and the potential for crime is interesting and compelling.

    Could you explain what you mean by “It is more desirable to live in a society with crime because these societies are ones that promote social change”?