Drugs: Applying Theoretical Approaches

Drugs in a society is a largely debated topic. There are many reasons and theories surrounding possession, punishment and drug laws. I will analyze two early theorists, Emile Durkheim and Karl Marx.  By viewing the topic of drugs from these too perspectives we can see how greatly theories differ.

Durkheim believes that laws are passed by the views of society as a whole and that laws are based on the basis of morality and justice. Durkheim’s theory states that all laws are created equal by the majority of society agreeing upon what is acceptable behavior. On these grounds he created the term “collective conscience”. Durkheim’s views of law and punishment is he  believes that when a crime is committed the “values” of the public have been violated. However Durkheims views sometimes fail because he has a heavy emphases on sociological influences rather than psychological/biological influences. Also when he speaks about “collective conscience” or  “society’s morality” he cannot talk about every single person, so his theory is biased towards the majority

Marx’s views surrounding drugs is a more difficult approach. Marx’s theory explains how the laws of society are biased because it is a constant struggle between the upper and lower classes, and that laws and punishment are created to suppress the lower class.  Marx’s theory acknowledges the economic factors on social phenomena such as crime. He also talks about the systemic discrimination and power and how crime and drugs are necessary to maintain a capitalist society. Marx’s theory fails in aspects describing why and how individuals get into rugs and also how they reform. Furthermore Marx theory is purely from an economic stand point and   fails to explain other reasons why Individuals get into crime.

Though both have valid points and fall backs one would need to combine theories for an interdisciplinary approach for a full description of crime.


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One response to “Drugs: Applying Theoretical Approaches

  1. How are you describing the phenomenon of interest? Are you looking exclusively at prohibited drugs, or are you looking at the socio-legal status of drugs more generally (including regulated and legalized drugs)?

    Regarding Durkheim, you note that “However Durkheims views sometimes fail because he has a heavy emphases on sociological influences rather than psychological/biological influences”. I look forward to seeing this idea unpacked. Note that, for the purposes of this class, we are particularly interested in what Durkheim would have to say about the way that we react to unlawful drugs through the legal system. You may also want to consider how Durkheim’s observation that crime is necessary and inevitable applies to this case.

    Be careful not to set up a ‘Straw Man’ version of Marx to serve as the target of your critique!

    Note that we are studying Law & Society, as opposed to sociological explanations of criminal behaviour – we are not focusing on the etiology of crime, but on the relationships between law & society, the nature and functions of the legal system, etc.