Short Essay on Conflict Theory of Crime (1392 Words)

Here is your Essay on Conflict Theory of Crime!

Sellin wrote about his conflict theory in 1938 and asserted that culture conflict emnates from conflict of conduct norms, where each separate culture sets out its own norms i.e. rules of behaviour to be instilled into its members. In a homogeneous society these are enacted into laws and followed by the members of that society because they consider them to be right. However, where the society is hetrogeneous, this does not occur and culture conflict is bound to arise.

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Void was also one of the proponents of the conflict theory of criminal behaviour. He argued that people are naturally group oriented and those who have same interests come together to form a group in order to carry forward these interests. The central theme of Void’s theory is that different groups have different and often incompatible interests which gives rise to conflicts.


Where groups have a similar strength, then they often resolve their conflict by compromise thus lending stability to society. But if the groups are of differing strength, the powerful one dominates which creates frustration and feeling of discontent among the weaker group which eventually leads to crimes. Therefore, crime according to Void is not the result of abnormality, but it is rather a natural response to an attack on the way of life of the deprived or weaker group.

It may, however, be noted that psychological conditions are not directly instrumental for causation of crime. The true explanation of criminal behaviour must apparently be found in social interaction in which the behaviour of a particular person and prospective conduct of other persons play a significant role.

In this context a reference to Sutherland’s theory of Differential Association as an explanation of crime causation seems inevitable as it extends positive support to the impact of psychological traits on incidence of crime.

Considering the structural aspect of human association, Sutherland suggested that social organisation consists of three main groups, viz., one supporting the criminal activities, the other remaining neutral to criminal circumstances while the third acting anti-criminal.


He further observed that the differential association in human organisation is a logical consequence of the principle of learning by association which is more or less a psychological phenomenon. Sir Walter Reckless has also supported this view and holds that though the responsible and irrationals do commit crimes incidently yet much of the criminality is due to a chain of circumstances.

The patterns of discrimination, injustice and exploitation are built into practices, and in course of time assume the form of cultural pattern. The ideologies that defend the unjust structures and patterns result into cultural violence, which is also called ‘structural violence’.

For instance, the American Civil War of 1865, where the whole culture of slavery had to be rejected or the struggle against apartheid in South Africa clearly shows how changes in contemporary society are necessitated for new alternatives and new forms of life.

Briefly stated, the conflict theory suggests that ‘structural violence’ is the outcome of inflexibility and rigidity of the rules and practices in dealing with different races, classes or cultures. Thus conflict theory of crime suggests that structural violence and its effects are manifested in the differential parameters of morality, morbidity and incarceration among different groups or cultures.


It is often argued that Sutherland’s theory of differential association as an explanation of crime causation has only a theoretical significance because it lacks reality. Alternatively, the conflict theory of crime which considers crime as a minority group behaviour such as juvenile gangs, prostitute houses, gambling dens, etc., places reliance on psychological trends of human behaviour in relation to crime.

Similarly, the political offenders in their quest for power commit only the crime of political nature such as sabotage, rebellion, unlawful assembly, riots, etc., and psychologically respond negatively to other types of crimes which relate to property and other monetary gains.

The anti-governmental activities of certain parties in India are a glaring illustration on the point. Their sole object is to oust the government in power due to the differences with its political ideologies. Secondly, the intensive industrialisation in India has given rise to frequent clashes between the management and the labour unions resulting into destruction of property, strikes, lock-outs, gheraos and other pressure tactics which are unlawful and offensive in nature.

Yet another significant interaction of conflict theory of crime particularly with reference to India can be located in the deep-rooted caste differences and communal hatred between the members of different communities. The Hindu-Muslim riots and tensions are common in Indian society.

The mass-massacre during partition of India in 1947 and the incidents of arson, looting, rape and murders were the outcome of sheer hatred between the two communities, namely, Hindus and Muslims who lived together peacefully in this country for generations. These conflicts and differences are obviously psychological in nature, particularly when the other minority communities are being amicably accommodated in India.

The mass-massacre and bloodshed in Punjab caused by the Sikh terrorist activities during 1984-87 and the disturbances in Delhi following the assassination of Smt. Indira Gandhi the Prime Minister of India, on 31st October, 1984 further bear testimony to the fact that ideological and communal differences which are purely psychological in nature, too often lead to, heinous criminal acts.

The mass-massacre and disruptive activities of LTTE, Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka which are being carried on unabated for the preceding more than ten years may also be cited to support contention that regional and linguistic consideration may also lead to ghastly crimes at the instance of a handful of psychotic persons.

The frequent bombing and killings in Iraq following the ouster of President Saddam Hussain by the U.S. forces in 2003 leading to Sunni conflict is yet another current illustration on the point.

Mention should also be made about the historic Deoria Sati incident which occurred in the State of Rajasthan on September 4, 1987. This unfortunate incident created a situation of confrontation between the protagonists who supported the practice of Sati on religious grounds whereas the people in general as also the Government is opposed to this evil practice because it is against public policy and is an act of barbarism.

It is submitted that Sati, namely, the burning of women on the pyres along with her deceased husband cannot be permitted in any form in the modem age because it is not only unethical but also inhuman and even unlawful. In the words of Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, the eminent jurist and former Judge of the Supreme Court of India “Sati is a criminal phenomenon……………. it is murder most foul of Indian women by cultural coercion and the ghastly sanction of incineration.”

It is for this reason that the Parliament had to come out with deterrent legislation against the practice of Sati, in 1987 providing death sentence for abetment of this offence. The law seeks to make glorification of Sati as an offence punishable with a minimum imprisonment of one year which may extend upto seven years and also a minimum fine of Rs. 5,000/- and a maximum of Rs. 30,000/-.

It is important to note that a struggle constantly persists between the law-breakers and the law-keepers—that is the criminals and the police. Clashes between them often provide a psychological basis for generating crime. With the stiff attitude and drastic measures of the police, the criminals become more furious, violent and aggressive.

This ensues face to face fights between the two with the result there prevails a reign of terror which in turn becomes a patent cause of violence and disorder. That apart, with the improved techniques of crime-detection, the criminals have also modernised their methods of committing crime so as to escape the chances of detection and arrest.

It must be stated that conflicts generally arise from misunderstanding, lack of understanding, clash of interests, gulf between the views or beliefs of persons or parties, suspicion, lack of justice, fair play or honesty, intolerance and violence and lack of rapport, love, and cooperation etc.

Once the conflicts arise and not quickly resolved, the situation leads to confrontation, social instability, disaffection and lawlessness which finally culminates into violence and criminality. It is therefore in the interest of the society that the causes of tension and conflict be eliminated and if they do arise, they must be resolved at the earliest. This is perhaps the best way to mitigate crimes.


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