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Conflict Theory in Criminology (From Radical Criminology, P 61-77, 1980, by James A Inciardi - See NCJ-70047)

NCJ Number
C R Huff
Date Published
17 pages
The conflict model of criminology is discussed with attention to nine major theorists demonstrating three conflict perspectives.
Advocates of a conflict perspective assert that criminal law does not reflect the functionalists' group consensus. The conflict theorists, instead, see three dimensions of conflict creating criminal law: (1) socioeconomic class, (2) group and cultural conflict, and (3) power and authority relationships. In the first instance, Marx's sociology, when applied to the subject of crime, suggests that crime is a result of class conflict based on economic inequality, and that, therefore, crime can be eliminated with the development of a classless society. Bonger went further in claiming that crimes committed by the dispossessed masses are related to their economic subjugation, while crimes committed by the bourgeoisie may also be related to the economy; e.g., declining business fortunes or insensitivity fostered by the inequality of wealth. Further, Quinney critiqued capitalist society as criminogenic and called for the establishment of a socialist alternative. In the second dimension, Sellin held that conduct norms are defined differently by different groups andd that the processes of socialization serve to instill differential definitions of proper versus improper conduct; social differentiation brings these group conduct norms into a culture conflict. Miller further suggested that the diversity of lower-class subcultures is a result of America's pluralistic society and that subcultures will inevitably conflict with more dominant groups in society. Vold's theory was more sociopsychological, with ingroup loyalties bringing persons into conflict with external groups in a politically organized society. In the third instance, Weber held that property differences led to the development of classes, differences in power created political parties, and prestige differences led to the development of status groupings or strata. Dahrendorf and Turk extended Weberian traditions by emphasizing the relationships between authorities and their subjects. These perspectives, or dimensions, should be more systematically linked with sociological theory, and will undoubtedly help in furthering the field of criminology. About 30 references are provided. For related documents, see NCJ 70047-49 and 70051-62.


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