Durkheim and Marx Theories Applied to Drug Laws

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All societies have rules and regulations as well as penalties for those who violate them. There are numerous theories about the philosophy behind these laws and punishments, and the reasons we implement them. A short analysis of two of these perspectives can shed light on the differences between the various ideas while illustrating that, in reality, each theory carries some validity. Emile Durkheim and Karl Marx’s perspectives on the law are significantly different. Durkheim’s view is based upon the belief that a society’s legal system reflects the values of society as a whole, while Marx’s view is based upon the belief that laws reflect a continuing conflict between the classes. An examanation of how these two perspectives perceive the basis and purpose of laws against the possession of illegal drugs reveals how entirely different they are. According to the philosophies of Emile Durkheim, punishment and lawmaking are based on morality and justice. His theories focus on punishment as a reaction to society’s collective beliefs about what is appropriate behavior. Durkheim developed the concept of “collective conscience”, or the idea of the shared beliefs and attitudes of a society. He theorized that the public provides legitimacy to the criminal justice system because the system reflects society’s collective agreement of the concept of morality. Thus, the collective conscious acts as the vehicle for justice. In Durkheim’s philosophy, punishment is directed more at the public, whose values have been violated, rather than at the individual offender. While Durkheim’s perspective on law centers on public consensus, Karl Marx’s conflict theory argues that law and punishment are products of the conflict between competing groups with different interests. In this theory, the elite class is in conflict with lower class populations. Punishment is used as a strategy for controlling the lower class. Lawmakers create and implement laws that are designed to maintain...
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