The conflict perspective in crime and social deviance

The conflict perspective, like the functionalist and symbolic interactions perspectives, is a concept or theoretical framework that seeks to establish the foundations of crime and social deviance in an effort to rationalize actions, behaviors, thinking processes, and such that lead to crime and social deviance and determine ways on how they shall prevented and their impacts to society downplayed. (Hawkins, The remainder of this text will define the conflict perspective and how its dimensions relate to crime and social deviance.

The conflict perspective in crime and social deviance was based on the conflict theory introduced by Karl Marx which divides society into the capitalist and the worker classes. It takes crime and social deviance under the context of social and economic situations, labeling them as features or elements of society that determine the kind and level of crime and social deviance that occur within it. (“Conflict,” 2005)

The implication of the Marx’s conflict theory is that crime and social deviance are motivated by this high distinction between the two kinds of classes that exists within society suggesting the existence of inequality. The capitalist class is more commanding with its authority, power, and influence supported by its advantageous position, while the worker class is less fortunate on matters strongly influences by the capitalist class for its benefit. (“Deviance,” 2008)

Aside from this main idea or concept, the conflict theory also establishes the thought that the differences between the capitalist and the worker classes also determine the kind of crimes and socially deviant behavior that individuals are likely to commit and exhibit. In other words, conflict theory suggests that individuals who belong to the capitalist class and the worker class differ in the kinds of crimes and socially deviant behavior that they commit or exhibit.

For instance, capitalists are more likely to commit white-collar crimes (ex. embezzlement, stock trading, regulation law violations, etc.), while individuals belonging to the worker class are more likely to commit street crimes (ex. theft, burglary, murder, etc.). In addition, socially deviant behavior is more likely attributed to the worker class due to the kind of behaviors or manners exhibited by homeless people. However, for those who are members of the elite class will never be regarded as deviant individuals despite the crimes that they will commit. (“Deviance,” 2008)

The implications of the conflict perspective are not mainly rooted on the distinction between the criminal patterns and socially deviant behaviors exhibited by individuals belonging to the capitalist class and the worker class. These implications however, are derived from the conflict perspectives’ influences on the justice systems that resolve the issues or crime and social deviance between the two societal classes.

(Turk, 1995) This idea is drawn from the theory suggested by the conflict perspective that punishment granted to crimes and socially deviant behavior differ according to one’s position in society. Street crimes are gravely punishable by law. On the other hand, white-collar or corporate crimes receive more complaint punishments of judgments.

In general, the conflict perspective presents crime and social deviance as flexible concepts relative to the structure and dimensions of various situations. In this case, the relativity is established by the socio-economic distinction between the capitalist and worker classes that sets the idea which takes authority, power, and influence above the law and the criminal justice system.

Apparently, the conflict that exists identified by the this particular theory or perspective is the conflict of interest between the capitalist and worker groups which promotes inequality rather than fair and punitive justice in terms of the notions and implications labeled to crimes and socially deviant behavior as well as the kind of punishments granted and deserved to individuals who belong to either the capitalist and worker classes.


“Conflict.” (2005). Retrieved December 25, 2008, from the Criminology Department of      the Florida State University.


“Deviance.” (2008). Retrieved December 25, 2008, from SparkNotes, LLC. Website:

Hawkins, D. F. (1995) Ethnicity, Race, and Crime: Perspectives across Time and Place.  Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Turk, A. T. (1995). Transformation versus Revolutionism and Reformism: Policy      Implications of Conflict Theory. Crime and Public Policy: Putting Theory to Work,        P. 15-27. NCJ 163418