Lecture 11: conflict theories
• Cultural conflict theory
• Group conflict theory
• Marxist conflict perspectives
o Instrumental Marxism, Structuralist Marxism, Crimes of the Powerless, Crimes of the Powerful
• Socialist feminism and Left realism
CULTURALCONFLICT THEORY: THORSTEN SELLIN (1)
• In culturally homogeneous societies, conduct norms reflect consensus (everyone agrees on these norms)
• In more complex heterogeneous societies there will be conflict between conduct norms of different groups (different people want
different things based on religious views i.e. canada.)
• The conduct norms of dominant groups will be enacted into criminal law — “criminal norms” ( most of the time, majority wins
like Canadian criminal justice law)
• Culture conflict occurs when individuals from a different group( most of the time the non-dominant groups) act on the basis of
their own conduct norms that have been criminalized.
• On the other hand when you have a cultural homogenous society, we all share the same values and thus it is more easier to
enforce laws and other.
• Bigamy=married more then one time=illegal in Canada but in other religion's it is allowed. But in Canada it is criminal since it’s
the “criminal norm” of the majority.
• Islam vs. Christian. Switzerland had referendum. It was basically banning minas in Switzerland's. People thought this will fail
but then it passed. In fact Swiss government did also not want it but since they had enough signature they had to make a law now.
• Anything can become illegal it just depends on who has the power. It is not about what is most important to society but rather
who is in power.
• No more burkas in France. In a liberal democracy like in France, face-to-face communication is key and makes human
relationships difficult if not possible with burkas. It is the function of group in power. At that point only 2000 woman dressed like
that. Thus, it is the effort from the perspective of the men in power that make the decision. Thus, this is how the society is runner.
• Quebec charter of values. Not passed yet. Certain things are allowed and others are not.
• Impact of colonization, migration & immigration: Example – immigrants follow “traditional” ways that conflict with norms of
new society (e.g. honour killings)
• Asqa Parvez—killed in 2007, NoorAlmaleki killed in 2009 , Shafia sisters 2009
GROUPCONFLICT THEORY (1) GEORGE VOLD
• Vold focuses on conflict between diverse interest groups ( labor, political groups etc
• He sees society as a collection of groups in a constantly shifting equilibrium of opposing group interests (people forms groups
• Law results from politics and the interest groups that can marshal the greatest number of votes will have the most influence in
passing new laws.
• The main idea is that “ its politics”
• Example: health care laws and the current government to get it passed. The moment some politician that is in great power think
it is important to get vote is really important.
• CONFLICT btw different interest groups CAN LEAD TO CRIME IN 2 GENERALWAYS:
• (1) ARESULT OF MINORITY GROUPBEHAVIOUR
o Adelinquent gang (i.e. hell angles) is a minority group whose interests are in opposition to majority adult values
o Conscientious objectors refuse military service during wartime (people running into Canada from the US to not go into
war in Vietnam). People can be hold in blame for this for them going against the law of the government.
• (2) CONFLICT BETWEEN INTEREST GROUPS: Political revolution makes criminals of those who previously held power
(i.e. sadam Husain was still in power he would not be dead right now).
• Strikes may escalate into violence or other offences
• Crimes may result from jurisdictional disputes
o Eexample:ACanadians strikes of postal workers initially it was legal but then in two days it became illegal. This shows
that aanything can become a law or illegal ( if people want it)
GROUP CONFLICT THEORY (4) by Richard Quinney
• Sellin focused on cultural group conflict; Vold on interest group conflict • Quinney on ‘segments’of society or types of ‘social groupings’.
• The more powerful segments are able to secure and protect their own interests by influencing the formulation, enforcement and
administration of the law
• Power= you put your will on other regardless of what others thinks. The more powerful will make, interpret that law for their own
• Quinney emphasizes unequal distribution of power. Some groups are never able to influence policy more then other and thus it
is not an equilibrium as the (powerful countries can dump their waste anywhere)
• QUINNEY’S SIX PROPOSITIONS:
1. Crime is a definition of human conduct that is created by authorized agents in a politically organized society. The ones in power
decide what is crime.
2. Criminal definitions describe behaviors that conflict with the interests of the segments of society that have the power to shape
3. The segments of society that have the power to shape the enforcement and administration of criminal law apply criminal
4. Behavioural patterns are structured in segmentally organized society in relation to criminal definitions and within this context
persons engage in actions that have relative probabilities of being defined as criminal.
5. Conceptions of crime are constructed and diffused in the segments of society by various means of communication.
6. 6. The social reality of crime is constructed by the formulation and application of criminal definitions, the dev. of behavioural
patterns related to criminal definitions a