Durkheim, Crime, and Normality

Durkheim’s sociology of law proposes that crime is a normal part of society, and that is necessary and indispensable. What he believes is a Crime is normal because it is observed, in some form or another, in all societies.  He explains that it is not a “demonstration of the wicked nature of man, but, on the contrary, a factor that shows the necessary integrative element in society”.  He believes that crime exists due to the moral check between society and human nature, that each may present conflicts with one another causing a difference on what is consider right or wrong. Durkheim believes that there will always be individual who oppose the rules and social norms and try to break off from the command of society to either help adjust the morale code or cause harm to the collective conscious.

Crime is present not only in the majority of societies of one particular species but in all societies of all types. There is no society that is not confronted with the problem of criminality.  Durkheim approached crime through discussions of mechanical solidarity; “Mechanical solidarity is the sense of togetherness in a society that arises when people, performing similar work, share similar experiences, customs, values, and beliefs.” Emile Durkheim coined the term in 1893 to explain what keeps some kinds of societies together, or put another way, why a society does not fragment. Durkheim believed that mechanical solidarity characterizes less technologically advanced societies, such as those dependent on hunting and gathering. This would idea leads to that if society operates efficiently then crime should be at a minimal that being said there is never any crime occurrence that there always is a conflict of some sort.  He says that in a society where it is unknown what expected behavior is, criminal activity results due to lack of knowledge or expectations in these societies’ crime and behavior are increased.

We have to first understand what is Durkheim talking about when he says crime? Crime is anything that opposes rules and regulation of the government which in one resides in, this being stated rules and regulation are just social norms and guidelines set out from the collective conscious. Durkheim explains that there will be cases where individuals from different lands or cultures don’t widely accept the common rules and regulation and therefore deemed criminals, due to the large nature of the each society have their own set of rules and rights, not all people can agree upon what crime truly is. When trying to adjust for criminal activity , individuals who oppose sure normal or the collective conscious will  be committing a crime by not belonging and contributing to the agreed upon norms of society.




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


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One response to “Durkheim, Crime, and Normality

  1. You note that “Crime is present not only in the majority of societies of one particular species but in all societies of all types. There is no society that is not confronted with the problem of criminality. ”

    Yes and no. Recall my remarks from Friday’s class, regarding the ubiquity of norm violations and the specificity of ‘crime’ as we now understand it. Durkheim is absolutely correct to suggest that all societies are characterized by serious transgressions of social norms, and that these transgressions generate social reactions that can have an integrative function. However, this does not mean that ‘crime’ is universal. If we understand ‘crime’ to mean a violation of codified laws that is interpreted as an offense against a sovereign state, this phenomenon is (1) associated with modernity and (2) *one* way (among others) of conceptualizing the violation of norms.

    How would you respond to this?