Annotations on The Rules of Durkheim (IV). The crime as a sociological phenomenon

As we mentioned in the previous entry, chapter 3 of The Rules includes an analysis of the crime. What you want to do Durhkeim, following a strategy very similar to that of Suicide, is to show the power of the sociological analysis, and in this case your definition of normality, looking for a phenomenon where this produces very different results to what you would expect common sense. As we mentioned in the previous entry, I think that the analysis here performed Durkheim is among the best of its pages, and that the brilliance of them does not depend on the argumentation on the idea of normality as a basis of the prescription sociological (that was criticized in the previous entry).

The boot is characteristic:

S’il est un fait, dont le caractère pathologique paraît incontestable, c’est le crime. Tous les criminologistes s entendent sur ce point. S ils expliquent cetter morbidité de manières différentes, ils sont unanimes à reconnaître. Le problème, cependant. demandait à être traité avec moins of promptitude (Chap 3, III, 65)

The rest of the section is dedicated in detail to show why such a review should be carried out in detail. Durkheim shows that the crime meets all the characteristics of a social phenomenon normal. The intention is not only to surprise, to show, that this approach is relevant: it allows us to see things that without it we would realize, but if we think from this it is clear that this is so. In addition, although Durkheim this is not what he emphasizes, demonstrates the difference between the analysis of the sociology and the individual level: The fact that the crime is a social phenomenon normal it does not follow that every act and every actor is. That is another question.

The arguments of Durkheim to test the normality of the crime are quite clear, and in addition incontrarrestables. First, it complies with the basic signal: to be a phenomenon broader than commonly appears in the societies. After the appointment we did, Durkheim continues:

Appliquons, indeed, the règles preceding. Le crime ne s note pas seulement dans la plupart des sociétés de telle ou telle espèce, mais dans toutes les sociétés de tous les types. Il n est pas où il n there exists a criminalité. Elle change de forme, les actes qui sont ainsi qualifiés ne sont pas partour les mêmes; mais, partout et toujours, il and eur des hommes qui se conduisaient de manière à attirer sur exus la répression pénale (Chap 3, III,, p 65)

Given the criterion, and given the facts, the conclusion is impossible to deny: the crime is part of the phenomena of the sociology normal.

Second, and following the criteria set forth in greater detail in section II, Durkheim strengthens the above, stating reasons that show why crime is a normal part of the operation of the whole society. His first argument is that, quite simply, a society without crime is impossible: that there is not a crime all individuals should be identically registered with all the rules of the society, because only then will always be the meet. Which raises Durkheim is that such uniformity is impossible -the mere fact that people have locations and different stories produces differences. And having that, then the society will understand some as crimes. If the weight of society is very strong and the differences are minor, what happens is that the acts that are considered crimes will change and correspond to what in other societies are considered to be fouls:

Imaginez a société saints, a cloître exemplaire et parfait. Les crimes proprement dits and seront inconnus; mais les fautes qui paraissent vénielles au vulgaire and soulèveront la même scandale that fait le délit ordinaire auprès des consciences ordinaires (Chap 3, III, p 68)

Not only the crime is normal, in other words it accompanies inevitably the social life, but also Durkheim emphasizes that the crime is useful. Given that the moral and the conditions of existence are in a relationship, when these latter morality must vary. But then that requires that exist and the potential to change the moral. And this requires that the collective feelings are mild and variable. They are, as already noted, Durkheim, conditions that inevitably produce crime. At the same time, more of a case what a crime it becomes -precisely because of these actions – something that is considered moral later.

In conclusion, with these arguments Durkheim then strengthens the idea that the crime is part of the sociology normal. Now, the next question is what exactly does that mean? This is relevant because even though a no small part of the argument and implications of Durkheim are widely there is one element that is lost usually. It is as well that a good part of the sociology analyzes the deviation in a unified manner -under the same framework by analyzing the crime that the innovation morality – which has its foundations in Durkheim. In addition to the practical consequences that set Durkheim, around which there is a natural basis of the crime, and that what matters are the variations on that basis does not cease to be, in part, on the basis of various decisions on how much and where to spend resources against crime.

In the preface to the first edition of Durkheim responds to the possible criticism that would imply that the crime being normal should not be punishable. But Durkheim says that crime is normal then your punishment is normal. The confusion is, in any case, quite enlightening, because it is here that appears the part of the argument of Durkheim that has been more well-hidden: the initial difference between the vision at the level of the individual, and the vision at the collective level. If you keep clear the difference then there is no problem: at The individual level it is clear what is normal and abnormal (and in fact to the level of crime, by the same arguments used by Durkheim, is abnormal), and at the collective level it is also clear (and a certain level of crime is then perfectly normal).

The absence of that difference and what it involves the distinction individual / collective continues to affect the sociology, which -on many occasions – it continues thinking of itself as a science that explains the individual life from factors collective. But that would be, precisely, to go against what the analysis of Durkheim shows here: they are separate issues. The type of analysis undertaken by Durkheim in the text, which is located in the centre of which is a study of the social life, is not of much interest to many sociologists, who remain concentrated on looking at what happens to the individual.

In that sense, one can argue that, despite its implementation as a classic and its influence, there is an aspect of the method of Durkheim remained rather outside the tradition: The fact basal that social life is not the life of the individual.


We are left to defend a last statement: That all the analysis of this input is completely independent of the previous one on how to founded Durkheim the idea of a sociology that establishes the action to be desirable. We followed the vocabulary and the arguments of Durkheim, and it is clear that they are based on these ideas: The normal appears as good, since this might lead to actions, the idea of useful is clear that transits of the description to the evaluation. However, the case is that the argument on the analysis of the crime not required. Take away the idea that normality is a measure of how healthy, and anyway, we have an analysis on aspects that appear in all societies, and an explanation of it. We will not be able to evaluate it, and less to draw conclusions practices direct without the lattice argumentative Durkheim analyzed in the entry consent; but the analysis remains intact. Let’s remove the idea of utility, and we still have an argument of the relationship between the crime and the possibility of social change.

In that sense, it is effective that we can perform and evaluate the analysis made by Durkheim about crime, without requiring the foundation that makes the distinction between the normal and the pathological.

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