Durkheim believed that crime is was and forever will be a part of society and that it is not only a necessary element of society, but that it’s also an irreplaceable element of society. Durkheim believed that “Since law reproduces the principal forms of social solidarity, we have only to classify the different types of law to find therefrom the different types of social solidarity which correspond to it (Division, p. 68)”, and that crime is a fundamental condition of all social life and that it serves a function to not only control society but also it serves a social function, and this was because “it performs important collective functions (e.g., reinforcing social norms, increasing consensus)” (Pavlich 73). This mindset suggests that society itself has the power and potential to explain criminal acts, the reactions of the community and crime itself in a given context, (73).
Durkheim felt that society could be studied using methods completely outside of the individuals that were the building blocks of it, and that “society has a life of its own quite independent of the members, or groups, that it shapes” (74). Basically, he feels like society is the true entity and that the individuals, us, are mere pawns within it and that we are all dispensable, not to mention that society could and would survive without us. He goes on to think that society forms people, how they act and what they believe, and that in a way social bond theory is suggested as an explanation for not only how we all act, but to further his claim that nobody really thinks for themselves; without our social groups and peers we wouldn’t think the way we do, we could have a totally different mind-set altogether. Our “conscious self” could be completely altered simply be changing who we associate with. I agree with that because it’s easy to tell that people act differently around certain people, whether it is colleagues, family, or even just certain friend groups, the general public will act differently depending on who they are with.
This is what he is getting at with crime being a normal, everyday part of society today, in that if a person is socializing with a group of friends or peers and they are engaging in criminal or even just deviant behaviour, chances are that one person will join in, regardless of whether it’s by directly participating or simply being an aider or abetter is irrelevant, the point is they will more than probably join in. it also depends on one’s definition of what is a crime, because I agree with Durkheim, crime is everywhere, and it always has been; probably always will be. It’s still a crime to still food to feed the hungry, or to steal water for the thirsty. Jay-walking (alright it’s deviant not exactly criminal) but even today, texting while driving, drinking and driving, talking on the phone while driving, all of these are crimes and yet you can’t go one day without seeing somebody doing one if not a combination of all three.
When it comes to contemporary examples apart from the above, the only one that can really be argued from across history is the usage of marijuana. According to Marcus Felson, American soldiers in the 19thcentury would use marijuana while in the battlefield as if it was a simple cigarette. In fact, he goes on to say that the presence of marijuana didn’t even enter the public domain as being a problem until the 20th century, and even then it can’t be agreed upon when it comes to the punishment and its severity. Felson actually says on Page 30 that indeed, consuming a small amount of marijuana is a felony in one place and a misdemeanor in a second place. Actually, some jurisdictions enforce marijuana laws strictly and others mildly or sometimes rarely. It’s one of those things that’ll always be in the news because someone will want to legalize or at the very least de-criminalize it, which shouldn’t be a problem, as it’s been documented that if the government of Canada (for example), was to legalize and regulate/control the sale and amounts being sold when it comes to marijuana, it could be a multi-billion dollar a year industry, which in the opinions of many people I’ve discussed this specific topic with, would basically negate the need or desire to start tolling every bridge as well as possibly roads as well. But that in of itself is another can of worms that won’t be opened here. Durkheim I believe would facilitate the usage and legalization of marijuana because it could prove to be a key aspect and component of what he was most concerned with, that being social solidarity. When rallies are shown to T.V. about people arguing for the government to allow marijuana, it’s never just one or two people, but hundreds if not thousands of people showing their support. This highlights those “complex interrelationships, structures and institutions which ensures not only its continuity and cohesion, but also its transformations” (Pavlich 73) that are discussed.
In all, I think that Durkheim hit the nail on the head in saying that crime is in a way, a pivotal aspect of society and will always be present. Although laws are created in an attempt to discourage criminal activity, it’s all due to social regard and mood. Without society crime wouldn’t exist, but I think to a certain extent, without crime society couldn’t exist because it’s one of the few ways to maintain and create balance between what’s real, and what’s being imagined. Crime shows the government and the community the holes that come up in the foundation that keeps us all safe, and society in its own way supports the laws that are created to stifle the crimes being committed. They are one, crime and society, one cannot live without the other, and vise versa.
Pavlich, George C. “5 – Durkheim Socializes the Law.” Law & Society Redefined. Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford UP, 2011. N. pag. Print.
Felson, Marcus. Crime and Nature. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2006. Print.