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Crime and Social Solidarity

Society was and is believed to be a very important aspect of all the theories that Durkheim came up with. In a listing of the certain areas of specialization he gave in lecture include: first, social psychology that deals with the study of common ideas and sentiments passed from one generation to another and that ensure both unity and continuity of a collective life. Secondly, the science of morality that sought the causes and laws of maxims and moral beliefs and the last of which was study of economic phenomena that later became transformed into a branch of sociology according to Lukes (1985).

Emile sort to discover what kinds of bonds made up a society and unite men one to another. His desire was a need to conserve the society at all costs and therefore a lot of researches he conducted were in many ways related to the problem of study: the nature of social solidarity. Emile states, “Social solidarity is a wholly moral phenomenon which by itself is not amenable to exact observation and especially not to measurement…” The very visible of openly exposed symbol of social solidarity is the law in this context. “Indeed where social solidarity exists, in spite of its non-material nature, it does not remain in a state of pure potentiality and only indicates its presence by perceptible effects” (Durkheim & Emirbayer, 2003).

It is highly possible that the concerns Durkheim had for the study on social solidarity may have arisen from the political turmoil at the time of his living in France. According to Fitzgerald, Durkheim in showing the reductionist flaws in individualistic theories of explanation and found that deviant as well as criminal activities are indeed an appropriate area for showing that what is seen commonly as individual acts are in fact required sociological analysis to determine the social phenomena and only then could true causes be thoroughly understood.

Fitzgerald asserts that he accounts of crime in modern industrial societies, Durkheim argued two points out: first that modern industrial urban areas have encouraged a state of egoism and this is contrary to the maintenance of social solidarity and conformance to law. Secondly, that in periods of gradual social change, ‘anomie’ occurs and by this he implied the disordered society with a deficiency of effective forms of social control and consequently leading to a state of perceived normlessness. This in effect then would result to a state of deregulated behaviour, disruption of the other members of the society’s usual expectations, absence of moral rules as well as lack of certainty in social morality (Fitzgerald, 1980).

Crime refers to the various indecent acts that are forbidden by and subject to sanction from a society or even the state. According to Ritzer, crime in context to the current modern society is the violation of criminal law that is punishable by the criminal justice system. He states that crime could be divided into a number of facets with those seeking to explain why people commit crimes and those that determine to understand the place of crime in the larger society (2005).  This gives a hint into the reason why Durkheim was so much interested in understanding the social solidarity. Ritzer, further state that crime at a glance might seem to poses certain problems for functionalist theory that views the society as a system in which every element serves a specific purpose or function and that contribute to the maintenance o the system. Ritzer suggests that according to Durkheim in his book The Rules of Sociological Method, the argument is that crime serves functions stating that crime was an inevitable social fact that every society used norm to mark their behavioural borders or extents and therefore punishment of criminal offences of these standards fostered social solidarity. According to Ritzer, crime then is necessary in order to define social order. Criminals are members of the society and the fact that they could be causing problems does not mean that they are an outcast. According to Carrabine, a criminal had the effect of uniting the community in the emotional solidarity of aggression. It is regarded that the intense emotion is healthy but promoted a number of harmful consequences since the acts of heinous crime could cause the spirals of rage emanation and these become very traumatizing rather than healing (2003).

Carrabine suggests that the Durkheimian tradition has continued to provide insightful analyses of how penal rituals provoke symbolic and emotive effects with arguments that criminal law developed as a consequence of middle-class moral indignation. Rights and liberties may not be inherent in an individual’s nature and with the society’s consecration of the person and making him or her primary object of respect. The progressive emancipation does not imply a weakening but a transformation of the social bonds. Durkheim and Giddens, state that the individual does not separate himself from the society but I joined to it in a very complete and new manner and therefore should have the change taking place (1972). The link of social solidarity to which a repressive law corresponds is one whose break constitutes a crime. It is therefore suggested by Durkheim that solidarity of the society entails establishment of ethics, norms and rules that govern certain expected ways that the society would want to uphold for as long as it exists.

The giving of the name to every act that in a way evokes against the authors the characteristic reaction is termed as punishment. This act of punishment is what follows the criminal act and therefore according to the society, it judges the criminal and accords them due punishment in relation to the harm that has been caused. According to Durkheim and Giddens, an act is criminal when it offends strong and defined states of the conscience collective. It is well understood “that crime violates very general and intense sentiments but there is a common belief that this generality and intensity derive from the criminal character of the act, which consequently remains to be defined”. (Durkheim & Giddens, pp. 123, 1972). They suggest that a crime is condemned not because it is a crime but is because it’s condemned. In this way we determine that social solidarity stands to define what the standards of a society must become. These have to regard every member of the community as special or much needed and not better than the other and therefore social solidarity is the bench mark of the societal norms, traditions, rules and various regulations that govern the society. These are seen against other behaviour that is condemned because they do not fall among the predefined or defined systems within the society and hence they automatically become crime. When a society is united with one voice and stand for a specific idea and crime comes into play then crime evokes certain societal emotions that lead to punishment which in actual sense is an emotional reaction.

Crime disturbs the feelings that a society has, the feelings of security and a sense of belonging but when crime sets in with injuries to be done to the collective sentiments and also wounding the society without certain people having to be direct victims. Whenever people living in a society grow up together, there is a usual feeling of bonding and staying as a formidable team. Durkheim and Thompson reveal that wherever social solidarity exists, despite its immaterial quality, it normally manifest it s presence by very clear and obvious effects, rather than remaining in a state of full potency. Social solidarity does push men to be together, putting then in frequent contact and thereby increasing the opportunities they have to enter into a relationship with each other. It is also a fact that when social life has a durable existence, it inevitably tends to assume a precise form and to be organized and the law is nothing other than this very organization in the very stable forms (2004). Crime therefore comes in many forms to disrupt this harmony and could also be a result of the solidarity in given ways. For instance, Fitzgerald reveals that social and environmental causal explanations of crime began to come more into prominence as the society grows and evolves gradually. Giving an example of England, Fitzgerald states that dynamics of rapid social change such as urbanization, immigration mobility and population growth- made the relation between the social conditions and the crime seemed very direct. It was very relational that most crimes were reported in areas that most experience the social changes (1980).

In conclusion, Luke gives a worded implication of Durkheim’s social solidarity to be “nothing other than the spontaneous accord of individual interests, an accord for which contracts are the natural expression. The typical social relation would be the economic, stripped of all regulation and resulting from the entirely free initiative of the parties. In a word, society would be merely the brining together of individuals who exchange the products of their labour, without any genuinely social influence coming to regulate that exchange.” (p.143) On the other hand Ritzer states that with regard to Karl Marx a society is viewed as competition among groups’ specifically social classes of different power and thus a criminal law is an artifact of the elite interest where the elite arrange the passage of laws that reflect and affirm their interest. In this view crime is seen as a rebellious or at least prepolitical expression of discontent of the oppressed while the law enforcement implies the control of the crime rates or in fact the control of the criminal minds. We can finally resolve that society and members thereof all need each other and therefore they must be every level of solidarity to keep together the bonds of relationship which in most cases are broken by the presence of crime. Crime has to be controlled even if some people use it to benefit at the expense of other people’s lives and property or at least liberties and rights. Crime and social solidarity are thus related and one can be used to curb the effects of another in this case social solidarity can be used to decrease the crime rates and entirely the presence of criminal minds by establishment of structures and norms that guide a society’s set of behaviour for the benefit of all.

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