Tag Archives: Crime

The Importance of Crime for the Sake of Social Evolution

“Aside from the fact that crime is important because it keeps me employed… I take a look at how its normality emerges through social evolution…”

Emile Durkheim’s proposal that crime is a normal paradigm within society stems from his key concept of social solidarity; especially, mechanical and organic solidarity (Pavlich, 2011). Embracing social solidarity allowed society to view crime as a violation of the collective morality or norms that have been established and internalized within a society. As a result, law and punishment were the mechanism used to preserve and assure the universal status quo (morality).

He viewed crime from a functionalist perspective. Crime served a purpose in regards to evolving social life and morality. It provides us a moral framework to work with and allows society to push the moral boundaries over time. It gives us the ability to illuminate what normality is and establish acceptable behaviour. As a result, Durkheim saw crime as impossible to get rid of and supported the notion that crime was healthy for society since human evolution would always create new complex problems and contradictions to the social norms (Pavlich, 2011). He knew that social cohesion could weaken when societies were transitioning from primitive to modern (Pavlich, 2011). Social behaviour correlates with the changes in the social structures that are present; thus, transitional societies will develop new values and new norms that may create strain among the collective conscious (Pavlich, 2011). Durkheim described this in his concept of dynamic density and understood that it would loosen social solidarity, which would be a precursor for anomie and deviance (Pavlich, 2011).

We can relate this concept to the current class system around the world. As societies became modern, the division of labour changed significantly as certain individuals exceeded in certain skills and became more individualistic. This resulted in the collective consciousness to weaken as social structures put people in different economic and social positions. Hence, Durkheim proposed that societies with weak social solidarities would allow individuals to have different opinions on whether certain laws are just, which could lead people to justify criminal acts (e.g. white collar crime) (Hamlin, 1999).

I believe Durkheim is correct about crime being normal within society, especially with the correlation of social solidarity and social evolution. Among modern societies, Durkheim described certain problems that affected solidarity. One was anomie, where quick economic development can lead to unprepared social structures (justice system) to produce regulations (Pavlich, 2011). As a result, the collective agreement on what is illegal behaviour may not be set fast enough for people to inherently understand; thus, creating confusion on what the new norms should be (Pavlich, 2011). An example is the white collar crime issue. White collar crime became difficult to punish as there was issues on how to measure the harm done. Courts did not know how to punish the harm done as victims were not physically injured and intention became hard to prove (Hamlin, 1999). This ties in perfectly with Durkheim’s anomie problem. Societies were evolving at a fast pace economically and social norms were shifting to a more materialistic/individualistic tone. Social solidarity began to weaken and thus the opportunity for a new wave of crime arose (Hamlin, 1999). At the same time, people could not fully grasp what white collar crime was as society had linked crime with damage to an individual or possession. Consequently, the white collar crime phenomenon establishes evidence on how crime will always exist and can be functional for society as it allowed us to expand the boundaries of morality and acceptable behaviours. New norms are created to punish new criminal behaviour and the collective consciousness for understanding the new behaviour is internalized for that specific moment (Hamlin, 1999). As a result, new legislation was developed for white collar crime (Hamlin, 1999). However, societies will keep evolving and as Durkheim claimed, organic social solidarity will produce new complex issues towards social norms (Pavlich, 2011.) This cyclical process is why crime will always exist and will allow societies to remodel social norms.

Reference:

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

The Normality of Crime: Durkheim and Erikson. Retrieved from: http://www.d.umn.edu/cla/faculty/jhamlin/4111/Durkheim%20-%20Division%20of%20Labor_files/The%20Normality%20of%20Crime.pdf

Understanding White-Collar Crime: Definitions, Extent, and Consequences. Retrieved from: http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/43839_2.pdf

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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.).

References

“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.

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Crime: Normal

Food for Thought Topic: Durkheim’s sociology of law proposes that crime is a normal part of society, and that it is necessary and indispensable. What does this mean? Is Durkheim correct? Discuss, with reference to contemporary examples.

In this week’s reading of Law and Society Redefined, Emile Durkheim suggests that crime is a normal part of society, and that it is necessary and indispensable. From my interpretation of this, he means that crime exists essentially everywhere in society, and by everywhere I mean it surrounds us on a daily basis. And it truly does, because crime occurs in many different contexts, whether it be petty, street level, or white collar/corporate crime.

I agree with Durkheim’s proposal that crime is a part of society, like I have mentioned above it is omnipresent. We do not live in a utopian society, for that reason I agree with Durkheim that crime is normal. In lower level courses we have learned that Durkheim did numerous studies where he tried to find a society in which crime did not exist, but failed to find such a community, leaving him to conclude that crime is a part of life. Durkheim later went to state that “a certain quantity of deviance indicated a healthy society” (Smith, 2008, p. 338). Moreover, in the book Suicide, Durkheim writes:

“We must therefore call crime necessary and declare that it cannot be nonexistent, that the fundamental conditions of social organisation, as they are understood logically imply it. Consequently it is normal” (Durkheim, 1966, p. 362).

Society accepts crime to be of normalcy on a general consensus, though crime is thought be deviant and unacceptable, this contradictory statement means that despite that fact that crime happens regularly, people do not approve of the heinous acts associated with it. We learn in Pavlich’s text that society is “independent of the individuals it moulds and shapes” (2011, p. 74). Although a society is comprised of individuals, it in turn does influence our thinking. In society we are embedded in social norms and beliefs that are responsible in swaying our thoughts. Durkheim views that crime and deviance brings a community together, suggesting that society is a collective. He says,

“Crime, therefore, draws honest consciences together, concentrating them. We have only to observe what happens, particularly in a small town, when some scandal involving morality has just taken place. People stop each other in the street, call upon one another, meet in their customary places to talk about what has happened” (Durkheim, 1964, p. 58).

I deem that society heavily influences how we think and view certain things, such as crime.

A local example of crime surrounding us is gang related crimes; living in Surrey, I have come to view gang violence to be normal because shootings happen so frequently. It is not something new, when we switch the tv on to the local 6 o’clock news, the headlines usually run as the following ‘Police Investigate Surrey Shooting” or ‘Shooting Victim Previously Known to Police; Associated to Gangs’ (CTV News, 2012). http://bc.ctvnews.ca/police-investigate-shooting-in-surrey-b-c-1.993175 However, on a personal level, I strongly oppose of gang violence, I view it to be extremely wrong; but like most people in Surrey (I have asked opinions of many people; their identities are to remain confidential), I too have come to accept it as a part of life because you cannot run away from crime. It is no question that everyone would prefer to live in a utopian society where everything is perfect; however, it is quite difficult to imagine that such a community can exist because crime in reality is inevitable, leaving me to say that Durkheim is correct.

References:
CTV News. Police investigate shooting in Surrey, B.C. Retrieved from: http://bc.ctvnews.ca/police-investigate-shooting-in-surrey-b-c-1.993175
Durkheim, E. (1964). The division of labor in society. New York: Free Press. (Original work published
1893)
Durkheim, E. (1966). Suicide. New York: Free Press. (Original work published 1897)
Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Toronto: Oxford University Press.
Smith, P. (2008). “Durkheim and Criminology: Reconstructing the Legacy”. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 41(3), 333-344. Doi: 10.1375/acri.41.3.333

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Durkheim: Crime serves a Social Function

Food for Thought:
Durkheim’s sociology of law proposes that crime is a normal part of society, and that it is necessary and indispensable. What does this mean? Is Durkheim correct? Discuss, with reference to contemporary examples.

Emile Durkheim’s theory that crime is a normal aspect of society is based on his belief that crime itself serves a social function.  That social function is to support or reassure the social norms of a society by the fact that crime is considered going against the norm.  Put simply, crime is simply deviant behaviour that goes against social norms.  It is with that model that law is created, from the adverse reactions of criminal behaviour by society.  As Pavlich (2011) states, “law is conceived of as the product of a given society” (p. 73).  Durkheim’s main focus was the idea of ‘social solidarity’, or how society works together as a whole and how society is organized.  He rejected the idea of individualism in the sense that society is the sum of its individual members; rather that it should be studied collectively.  Another principle of Durkheim’s that keeps society stable is ‘social facts’, that is, “ways of acting, thinking, and feeling, external to the individual,” (Pavlich, 2011, p. 74).  It is these social facts that hold control and authority over individuals to keep society stable.

One of the main arguments for Durkheim’s theory is that since crime is found in all societies, it must be performing necessary functions otherwise it would disappear in an advanced society. (Hamlin, 2009).   One of these necessary functions is social change.  Crime is one of the most effective sources of social change in any society.  When crime goes against social norms, eventually a society’s collective belief will transform thus bringing about social change.  A prime example is the Anti-miscegenation laws in the United States that promoted racial segregation.  As society progressed many people began violating the laws at the time until society reached a point where it was considered a norm for inter-racial relationships in society.  Eventually racial segregation was abolished and in today’s society would violate social norms.

In my opinion, I would agree to some extent, with Durkheim’s theory and say that he is correct in saying that crime is inevitable.  Moreover, it is largely inevitable in societies with higher inequality such as socio-economic statuses which Durkheim mentions as being a factor of crime.  However, crime will always occur in every society regardless of its socio-economic state because most social norms are based on a moral code.  That moral code can only be defined by previous criminal behaviour for that specific society.  Therefore, crime has to be present for social norms and laws to be created.

One point of Durkheim’s that I agree with in theory but disagree with in a practical sense is his notion that crime reinforces social norms because that contradicts how crime can bring about social change.  If social norms against crime collectively become stronger when it is committed, then how can those norms be reversed?

References:

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

Hamlin, J. (2009) The Normality of Crime. Durkheim and Erikson, Department of Sociology and Anthropology. UMD

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