Durkheim’s views crime as normal.

As for this week’s reading, Durkheim’s sociology of law proposes that crime is a normal part of society, and that it is necessary and indispensable. To better understand what Durkheim is proposing, I will break his statement into a twofold. First, I agree with Durkheim in stating that crime is a normal part of society. The reason being is that it is difficult to point to a place or a period of time where crime has not been committed. Although the definition of crime has changed over the years, nonetheless, crime has always been part of the society. For instance, historically, individuals were accused of witchcraft crime. Rosen (2005) explains that, “[t]hree months went by, during which many women and few men were accused of witchcraft…[t]he first of what would come known to be known as the Salem Witch Trials took place June 2, 1962. The defendant, Bridget Bishop, was found guilty [and was] hanged on June 10” (p.14).

I will now shift my focus towards discussing why crime is necessary and indispensable. I believe crime is necessary and indispensable because it allows a social and legal change to occur. I will incorporate the example of September 11 attack upon the United States in New York and Washington. Although as heinous as it was, I believe that the September 11 attack had brought a substantial and immediate change in some of the policies such as the foreign policy. As stated, “ United States foreign policy changed in some very noticeable ways after September 11, 2001…[t]he most noticeable change in U.S. foreign policy is its focus on preventive action, not just preemptive action. This is also known as Bush Doctrine” (Jones, n.a). Because the changes in the foreign policy would ensure that the society in the future would be better protected from the crime such as terrorism, I agree with Durkheim’s viewpoint that crime is necessary and indispensable. In other words, “…crime is necessary because it is ‘fundamental’ to social life, and it is ‘indispensable’ to ‘the normal evolution of morality and law’” (Pavlich, 2011).

The question I would like to raise, however, at this point is ‘How is crime defined? And Who defines crime?’. The reason I propose this question is because according to me there are many types of crime which are not defined in the legal text but continue to harm an individual and society at large. The first type of ‘crime’ that comes to my mind while addressing the above noted question is of ‘poverty’. Even a social reformer, Mahatma Gandhi believes that, “[p]overty is the worst form of violence”(Poverty Quotes, n.a.) .It is important to acknowledge that this type of crime is not committed by the individual but by the society towards an individual. In short, poverty is a crime that continues to inflict the lower class individuals by the upper class society due to the uneven distribution of resources. Pavlich (2011) notes the following: “…law provides a justification for the bourgeois state. This helps to make law and state appear as absolute, independent forces, but both are products of bourgeois attempts to structure people’s consciousness in ways that legitimate an underlying capitalist mode of production” (p.97).  I would like to end by sharing the following quote in Durkheim’s own words: “[t]here is no society known where a more or less developed criminality is not found under different forms. No people exists whose morality is not daily infringed upon. We must therefore call crime necessary and declare that it cannot be non-existent, that the fundamental conditions of social organization, as they are understood, logically imply it”.  (Durkheim, Emile Quotes, n.a.).


“Durkheim, Emile Quotes – Quotations Book.” Welcome to Quotations Book – The Home of Famous Quotes. Retrieved from http://quotationsbook.com/quotes/author/2178/

Jones, S. (n.a).  “US Foreign Policy After 9/11.” Welcome to About.com US Foreign Policy. Retrieved from http://usforeignpolicy.about.com/od/defense/a/Us-Foreign-Policy-After-9-11.htm

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law and society redefined. Canada: Oxford.  Print.

“Poverty quotes.” Find the famous quotes you need, ThinkExist.com Quotations. Retrieved from http://thinkexist.com/quotations/poverty/

Rosen, F. (2005). The Historical Atlas of American Crime. United States of America: Facts On File. Print.


1 Comment

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One response to “Durkheim’s views crime as normal.

  1. Interesting use of the example of the witch trials. How would Durkheim categorize the legal framework associated with the witch trials? Does it reflect penal law or restitutive law – mechanical or organic solidarity?

    The events of September 11, 2001 certainly offer an opportunity to study the integrative and norm reaffirming aspects of crime, although I would note that the legislative and policy window that opened after Sept. 11 was highly divisive. There is a strong argument to be made that changes to US Foreign policy *increased* global instability and conflict and led to a heightened risk of terrorism against US interests.

    You ask “How is crime defined? And Who defines crime?”

    These are some of the most important questions for us to explore as criminologists, and you make an excellent point when you refer to Ghandi’s interpretation of poverty as violence. Please see me if you want to talk about some additional resources that address these issues.