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

Durkheim
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. If crime were to stop,
then we would pass new laws as to what constitutes as a criminal act. People
view crimes as socially destructive because it harms individuals, and divides
society, but Durkheim had a different view. According to Durkheim, “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).” 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).” Durkheim uses this reference to show people that everyone has different
moral values, and just because you may not follow the moral values of a saint
it doesn’t make you a criminal.

            Durkheim explains that criminal acts
are mostly committed as a result of individual, historical, or other
experiences. 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. 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. 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 in hopes of changing
the future morality in society. 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. “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. Durkheim uses the term ‘mechanical solidarity’ to describe
societies where the social and religious beliefs bound people together to form
a stable society. Because of these shared views in the mechanical solidarity
societies, crime rates were low because everyone in that society knew what was
acceptable and unacceptable. As societies develop overtime and become more
urbanized, there is social and geographical mobility. 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 level.

            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 someone who
had been a victim of theft or robbery most likely would not find comfort
knowing that according to Durkheim it 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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