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.
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
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