Conflict Theory and Criminology - McGraw

Conflict Theory
Consensus Model
 The
consensus model is when members
of a society consider certain acts so
threatening to community survival that
they designate these acts as crimes. If a
vast majority of a group’s members share
this view, the group has acted by
©2012 McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd.
The Conflict Model
While labelling theorists and traditional criminologists
focus on crime and the criminal, conflict theorists
focus on the system itself.
 Laws represent the interests of specific groups (as
opposed to consensus view that the law reflects
shared values).
 The key concept is power; people who possess
power work to keep the powerless at a disadvantage.
 Definitions of crime and criminal mirror the society’s
power relationships; norms are relative to time and
©2012 McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd.
The Conflict Model
This “squeegee kid” is confronted by police
despite the fact that he has likely not committed a
“crime.” These types of interactions raise
questions about the relationship between
socioeconomic disadvantage and social control.
Conflict theorists ask:
If people agree on the
value system, as
consensus theorists
suggest, why are so
many people involved in
rebellion, why are there
so many crimes, so
many punitive threats
and people in prison?
©2012 McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd.
Conflict Theory and Criminology
George Vold (1896-1967) was the first theorist to
relate conflict theory to criminology.
 He argued that individuals band together in
groups because they are social animals with
needs that are best served through collective
 Society is in a constant state of conflict, “one of
the principle and essential social processes
upon which the continuing ongoing of society
©2012 McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd.
Conflict Theory
 Conflict
theory does not attempt to explain
crime; it simply identifies social conflict as
a basic fact of life and as a source of
discriminatory treatment by the criminal
justice system of groups and classes that
lack the power and status of those who
make and enforce the laws.
©2012 McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd.