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.
9. Conflict, Marxist and radical theories of crime
1. Theoretical Contexts:
The Changing Nature and Scope of the Sociology of Crime and Deviance
This book explores the sociology of crime and deviance as an incoherent discipline with relatively independent versions. It considers the diverse theories and perspectives on crime and deviance that can be linked, either directly or indirectly, to the work of Émile Durkheim, Karl Marx, and Max Weber. It also looks at each of the major schools of thought and their assumptions, along with the character and sources of ambiguity that has characterized the sociology of crime and deviance. As an example, the book cites the disagreements regarding the connection between crime and politics. In particular, it discusses the debate over the consequences of the politicization of crime control. Finally, it examines the disparate contexts in which criminology is viewed as an academic enterprise.
7. Law and social theory
This chapter examines the subject of social theory and, in particular, the sociology of law and analyses the leading theories of a number of writers who adopt a ‘sociological perspective’. The theories of Roscoe Pound, Eugen Ehrlich, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, and Jürgen Habermas are discussed. Each espouses a different approach to the analysis of law and the legal system, but what they have in common is the attempt to explain the role law plays in society. Their contribution is an important one, although it is sometimes questioned whether the sociology of law has an adequate theoretical grounding.