Durkheim (McLaughlin E, 2003, pg. 65).” The two

is known for his Functionalist theory, and in his book the Rules of
Sociological Method (1895), he distinguished between the normal and the
pathological. The word pathological means extreme or compulsive, and when we
talk about crime it relates to harmful or destructive. Crime has always
occurred in society, and it will always continue to. People view crimes as
socially constructive because it harms individuals, and divides society, but
Durkheim had a different view. According to Durkheim, “it wasn’t that simple
and crime could actually be something desirable, functional and when at a
certain level, where it wasn’t too high and wasn’t to low, it was an indicator
of a healthy society (McLaughlin E, 2003, pg. 65).” The two sides, the right
and the left, both see crime as pathological. The left argues investments in
jobs, while the right wants harsher punishments. Durkheim argues that only when
the rate of crime becomes too high is when it becomes abnormal or pathological.
To understand the nature of crime Durkheim tells us to imagine a society of
saints. “The saints don’t seek to harm anyone, or steal or do anything that we
might view as a crime. Yet this ‘perfect cloister of exemplary individuals’ as
he describes them, would respond to the most trivial of infractions with the
same degree of disgust or disapproval that we would of a murder or rape
(McLaughlin E, 2003, 66).” Crime will always be within society, and if it were
to stop, we would just pass new laws as to what constitutes as a criminal act.

            Durkheim says that criminal acts are
committed as a result of individual circumstances, historical experiences, or
other influences. This is because everyone’s experiences results in a different
view of morality. Not everyone thinks and acts the same the way, so what one
person views as moral, another might view it as criminal. If the authorities
enforce laws too strict, then society wouldn’t be able to change. By
challenging and breaking the law, society will be forced to change and adapt,
for example the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. The riots at the time were
seen as criminal acts at the time, but the people participating in the riots
were doing it to change future morality in society.  Some criminals are moral visionaries, where
they challenge or break the law to improve society, and other criminals commit
crimes for selfish reasons, but that is just nature. In Durkheim’s, Rules of
Sociological Method, he states crime at a tolerable level isn’t pathological at
all, and punishment should not be designed to cure it. Crime promotes social
solidarity by reminding us what is acceptable or unacceptable. Lastly, Durkheim
argues that we should not congratulate ourselves about a low crime rate,
because low crime rates could indicate a terrible economy like during the Great
Depression in the 1930’s. “As we get richer and have more consumer durables
like mobile phones we should not be surprised that theft increases. As such,
assault and theft can be framed as an indicator of a healthy and vibrant
economy (McLaughlin E, 2003, 68).”

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            In the Division of Labour in Society
(1893), Durkheim explains how as societies develop they tend to become more
prone to crime. Before industrialization there wasn’t a competitive work field.
Most likely where you were born was where you died, and the people in the place
that you lived shared the same religion and outlook on life. Durkheim called
this mechanical solidarity, where the social beliefs bound people together to
form a stable society. The shared views in these societies bound together by
mechanical solidarity prevented high crime rates. As industrialization occurs,
the division of labor becomes far more complex. Economic roles are
differentiated and given out on a competitive basis, there is social and
geographical mobility, and society becomes more urbanized.  The influence of religion had less control
over society, which people would argue this resulted in higher levels of crime.
Instead of societies being bound together by shared norms and values, Durkheim
says societies were bound together more by shared economic interdependence. He
called this type of society organic solidarity. Durkheim describes this as an
anomie, a kind of normlessness where the social norms were unclear, or
societies weren’t strong enough to prevent crimes from rising to an abnormal

            Durkheim’s theory on criminal
offenders and crime control are different than the majority of views today. Durkheim
distinguishes between the normal and pathological by saying crimes are
committed in hopes of social reform, where others are out of selfishness. He
doesn’t really focus on the individual victims of crime; instead he focuses on
how crime could ultimately lead to the bigger picture. For example an elderly
lady who had her phone stolen will most likely not find comfort in knowing that
having her phone stolen means the economy is going in the right direction. Majority
of people who are victims of crime want the people who committed the acts to be
punished severely, where as Durkheim would argue that unless crime is unusually high, we
shouldn’t try to solve it because it’s perfectly normal. He says punishments
for crimes should not be too weak, but at the same time not too strong where it
prevents criminal acts to happen. Durkheim says crime is inevitable, and if we
try to stop crime all together it will result in society not being able to
evolve in the future. Overall, Durkheim’s view of crime is that crime in
moderation is essential for society to be able change, adapt, and evolve. 


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