What Conflict Criminology Cannot Explain

When I was an undergraduate I utilized Durkheim’s theoretical contributions to morality often, oblivious to how critiqued his consensus theory is in my field. Though as a graduate student I understand and even cosign the critiques, I believe Durkheim still has a great deal to contribute to the understanding of an underlying moral sentiment in criminal ‘justice’, especially when looking at the subset of offenders most despised even by other criminals: sex offenders. The palpable hate for sex offenders by the public cannot be easily explained using conflict theory. Sex offenders come from all socioeconomic backgrounds and represent a wide range of ethnicities and races. They are not legislated against for their minority status, they do not present a racial threat, and they are not necessarily members of the working class. Sex offenders incite moral opprobrium in the public and it is for that reason they are used to bolster political agendas. Without underlying collective moral outrage, laws as extreme as those requiring a public registry would never garner support. As Donald Black alludes to in Crime as Social Control, punishment is laced with moral righteousness, even if that moral righteousness is not necessary a response to the reality of the condition.

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