- Stephen JonesStephen JonesHonorary Senior Lecturer, School of Law, University of Bristol
This chapter discusses the two contrasting views of society that have been repeatedly put forward through history. First is the consensus view, whereby it is claimed that society is based on a general consensus of values and that the state is operated in such a way as to protect this. Labelling theorists, such as Howard Becker, raised as a central issue the question, ‘Who makes the rules and why?’ This reflected a contrasting, conflict view of society, which recognises that society includes groups with competing values and interests. Unlike the consensus view, a conflict approach claims that the state does not uphold the interests of society as a whole, but only those of the groups that are powerful enough to control it. The best-known conflict theorist was Karl Marx, who argued that, in capitalist societies, the state is controlled by those who own the means of production.