Crime is present in all societies worldwide, and there is not even a single society that is not confronted with the problem of criminality. The only thing that differs from one society to the other is the nature of crime because the acts that characterize crime are not the same everywhere. According to Vanamore (2013), crime refers to an act that is deemed socially harmful based on the degree of injury that it inflicts on the general public. Many people believe that crime is harmful to social life and it is therefore not useful to the society. Even though crime is very costly to the society, Durkheim claims that crime is part of all societies and therefore makes very important contributions to the society’s operations (Durkheim, 2014).
Durkheim believes that crime plays an important social function in the society. For instance, crime reassures the social norms of a society because it provides the basis by which various laws are created. Several laws have been created as a reaction towards criminal behaviors that exist in the society. According to Durkheim (2014), society works together as a whole, with every individual part playing an important role in maintaining social solidarity. Therefore, the society would have been incomplete suppose everyone in the society was a saint. Additionally, crime is a social fact that helps to keep the society stable because it shapes how the society acts, thinks, feels, and interacts (Pavlich, 2011).
The main reason why Durkheim believes that crime serves a social function in the society is because it is found in both traditional and modern societies. According to Hamlin (2009), if crime did not play an important function in the society then it would disappear in the contemporary society. Social change is one of the important functions of crime. When a person performs an act that goes against social norms, then the collective belief of the society is transformed thus resulting into social change. For instance, the Anti-miscegenation laws promoted racial segregation in the United States. As time went by, the society began violating those laws by interacting with people from different races until it reached a time when inter-racial relationships became the norm of the society. To date, racial segregation is prohibited in the United States and anybody who discriminates against others in terms of race will have violated social norms (Durkheim, 2014).
Personally, I feel that crime plays a very important social function in the society because it helps to support the major social structures: politics, family, education, religion, and economy. One question that one might ask himself is, ‘why is it impossible to have a society that is devoid of crime?’. According to Durkheim (2014), most crimes such as robbery, murder, and identify theft occur due to variations in socio-economic status. As the poor continue to commit crimes by robbing the rich of their wealth, the society finds it necessary to create employment opportunities for the poor, which results in growth. Again, suppose there were no crimes, what would be the role of the police and the church? Police officers are employed due to the existence of criminals in the society. Additionally, pastors will lack examples to use in discouraging people from engaging in sinful acts if the society was free of crime.