Conflict theory postulates that the divergences experienced between diverse competing individuals emanate from the behaviors of humans in the societal perspective. Specifically, conflict theory has been critical in the rationalization of human behaviors concerning culture as well as criminal behavior. The balance of power and privilege in the society form the cornerstone for the emergence of conflict theory (Siegel, 2008). For instance, theorists like Max Weber believed that conflict has numerous bases including religion, ethnicity and social class among other factors.
Cultural aspects are the major grounds for significant and lasting struggles in society. In fact, great attention is often paid to such aspects by the government agencies and processes tasked with controlling crime as well as imposing penalties on law contraveners. Behaviors that contravene cultural norms normally exist in the form of disregarding officially ratified laws as well as the violation of the informal social norms that have been codified into decree (Siegel, 2008). The formal deviance include rape, murder and assault whereas the informal deviance may encompass belching loudly as well as picking an individual’s nose depending on the culture.
Essentially, behaviors that contravene cultural norms diverge from one way of life to another. In principle, cultural norms and human behaviors are comparative. For example, the relative aspect of cultural norms is evident in the Christ Desert Monastery (CDM) where individuals are not allowed to speak between 1930 hours to 0400 hours. Therefore, the paper examines the causes and effects of culture conflict theory with the criminal justice system (Akers, 2013).
Causes of Culture Conflict Theory with the CJ System
Generally, compliance to established cultural norms of blue-collar society leads to criminal activities. For example, studies postulate that the rate of crime is worse within cities where the less privileged live compared to the outer reaches where the rich reside (Akers, 2013). As such, it is evident that socioeconomic status that is linked to ethnicity is an ingredient for high crime levels.
Social and economic aspects that function within the society are also considered as the major causes of crime. In essence, there is a perception that the criminal justice system only serves the needs of the affluent as well as the influential social leaders. Additionally, the policy outcomes of the criminal law and justice system are only focused on controlling the underprivileged (Akers, 2013). The establishment of the criminal justice system is to impose standards of ethics and good behavior in the society. However, the major focus of the criminal justice system is always to separate the high-ranking in society from the less influential (Akers, 2013). Actually, the privileged are capable of deviating from the accepted cultural norms and seek protection from the arms of justice.
Considering radical feminist point of view, greater focus has been on the dilemma of women under private enterprise because the customs are in favor of male supremacy. In reality, women have been subjected to unfair treatment through the institutionalization of status offence defiance including sexual deviance as well as running away from home (Akers, 2013). Further, females often have to be on individual guard while away from home or when at work to avert the potential men’s aggressions including rape and maltreatment.
Leftist realism that emerged in the 1980s is also another cause of cultural conflict with the criminal justice system (Walker et al., 2011). Transgression casualties in that decade persuaded criminologists to accept the fact that the poor are the main sufferers of crime and not the affluent. In other words, the leftist realists advocated that the criminal justice system must bring to an end unlawful victimization devoid of considering the status of executors. Further, the leftist realists also advocated for greater focus on transgressions executed by influential and affluent individuals in society. Moreover, leftist realism also recognized the importance of focusing on executive business related crimes.
Marxism concept based on class struggle postulates that the oppressors commonly referred to as the bourgeoisie and the oppressed (proletariat) stood in regular antagonism. In other words, the owners of the means of production made every effort to maintain the cost of labor at the lowest levels possible whereas the workers endeavored to offer labor at the highest possible prices (Walker et al., 2011). In principle, the contrasting objectives are the major sources of conflict in the consumerist economy. According to Marx, unfair as well as isolated social circumstances are the causes of social problems like crime and the resolution of such problems can be achieved through collective possession of the means of production as well as equivalent division of the fruits of labor (Akers, 2013). As opposed to Marx, the contemporary Marxist criminologists often defend criminals. In fact, some researchers view convicts as supplementary sufferers of processes emanating from social and racial disproportion. For Marxist criminologists, all crime emanate from class struggle (Akers, 2013). In other words, actions considered as the contravention of individual civil liberties include prejudice, chauvinism and imperialism. Besides, private enterprise is one of the sources of class oppression. Generally, public interactions are often typified by divergence.
According to conflict theorists, criminal conduct is seen as ethically unbiased and has no inherent attributes that makes it different from compliant conduct. In addition, the existence of misdemeanor emanates from criminalization of activities of less privileged by an influential group (Duffee & Maguire, 2007). The capability of criminalizing the acts of other groups comes with the distribution of political power. Essentially, as long as there is existence of diverse cultures, interests and power, crime will always constitute part of human condition.
Peacemaking criminology is also another cause of cultural conflict with the criminal justice system (Akers, 2013). The theory is based on appreciative relativism. In other words, the theory advocates for rejection of the notion of letting individuals who cause injury to others undergo separation of the universal attachments of respect and concern that unite members of a society. Additionally, the concept advocates for the desertion of ideas that view elimination of individuals through execution or banishment as tolerable (Duffee & Maguire, 2007). In most societies, criminals are always imprisoned. However, peacemaking criminologists assert that overemphasis on castigating offenders leads to violence and the society must defend against criminal oppression by utilizing restorative justice. The theorists support restorative justice system that is centered on the needs of casualties, offenders and the rest of society to be involved in the corrective measures. The approach of restorative justice does not only concentrate on satisfying abstract legal principles of punishing the criminals but also takes into account the needs and concerns of the victims.
Effects of Culture Conflict Theory with the CJ System
Competitions as well as dynamics of conflicting interests between diverse social classifications as the essential aspects of strengthening culture have varied effects on the criminal justice system (Akers, 2013). Actually, the conflict theory of the criminal justice system views criminal laws as a way through which the high-ranking individuals in the society apply power and contain the socially underprivileged groups (Walker et al., 2011).
For instance, ethnic-inclined conflict theory hypothesizes the criminal justice system as tilted to favor the dominant white race while discriminating the Hispanic, Black as well as aboriginal ethnic groups. In reality, some conflict theorists follow Marxist ideas that postulate the social order as divided along lines of financially viable affluence (Walker et al., 2011). As such, influential members of the society are capable of utilizing the criminal laws to tyrannize the unfortunate.
Culture conflict theory lays the foundation for the assessment of the functionality and objectives of the criminal justice system (Duffee & Maguire, 2007). For instance, according to the American Society of Criminology (ASC), over thirty percent of black males in the US risk imprisonment at a given point in their lifetime. In this regard, there is great imbalance considering the number of black male confinement to the incarceration of males from white ethnicity. In principle, cultural conflict theory offers prospective justification to such statistics.
Cultural conflict theory also offers a rationalization of the overarching values and beliefs that exist in the diverse criminal justice systems. In other words, cultural conflict theory provides the description and analysis of the goals and consequences of criminal justice systems (Walker et al., 2011). For instance, in the normative scrutiny of death penalty cases, various aspects such as expenses, preclusion consequences as well as methodical protection against improper convictions in justifying death penalty to stop crime are considered.
Intensification of ethnic apprehension among the public is another consequence of cultural conflict theory with the criminal justice system (Walker et al., 2011). For instance, where data indicates inconsistency concerning confinement among members of certain ethnicities, public and media criticism is often inevitable. The backlash normally arises because some races are perceived as having significant inclination for involvement in criminal deeds regardless of the other cultures’ application of criminal laws to initiate ethnic oppression. Cultural conflict theory also leads to the alteration of laws that have distorted consequences (Akers, 2013). Recently, the Congress of United States altered the arduous sentencing guiding principles for crack cocaine (Walker et al., 2011). In fact, the alteration proposed that the punishment for the use of cheap crack cocaine common among individuals of low economic rank should correspond and be moderated with the punishment for the use of pricey powdered cocaine that is utilized by the wealthy (Walker et al., 2011).
In summary, behaviors that contravene cultural norms diverge from one way of life to another. Additionally, compliance to established cultural norms of blue-collar society leads to criminal activities. Social and economic aspects that function within the society are also considered as the major causes of crime. Most importantly, radical feminism, leftist realism, peacemaking criminology as well as Marxist concept are major causes of cultural conflict theory. The effects of cultural conflict theory range from laying the foundation for the assessment of the functionality and objectives of the criminal justice system to intensification of ethnic apprehension among the public. Generally, cultural conflict theory also offers a rationalization of the overarching values and beliefs that exist in the diverse criminal justice systems.
Akers, R. L. (2013). Criminological theories: Introduction and evaluation. London, UK: Routledge.
Duffee, D. & Maguire, E. R. (2007). Criminal justice theory: Explaining the nature and behavior of criminal justice. London, UK: Routledge.
Siegel, L. (2008). Criminology. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
Walker, S., Spohn, C. & DeLone,M. (2011). The color of justice: Race, ethnicity, and crime in America. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.