Chapter 9 of “Criminology Today” by Schmalleger

The chapter 9 “Social Conflict Theories” describes the following analytical perspectives on law and social order. The consensus perspective revolves around the statement that the majority of society members have the same assumptions on the right and the wrong, and people collaborate to achieve some greater good. The pluralistic perspective claims that various values and beliefs exist in most societies at the same time, and each separate social group has its own set of values, beliefs, and interests. According to the conflict perspective, conflicts can never be resolved since they are an essential part of social life, and social order rests on law, which is controlled by the powerful (Schmalleger, 2014, p. 216-219).

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Radical criminology is a view, according to which the causes of crime originate in social conditions that give power to the wealthy rather than to the poor. Contemporary radical criminology is divided into structural and instrumental directions. The central tenets of the structural school are: laws and justice system maintain the existing balance of power; even the rich cannot disturb this balance; laws guarantee the safety of the capitalist system. The postulates of the instrumental school are: the wealthy control the poor through laws and justice; the legal system ensures the survival of the power balance (Schmalleger, 2014, p. 223). The shortcomings of radical criminology are: mixing personal and social problems; sentimentality toward criminals; seeing wealth as a result of luck rather than work; not understanding that crime is a result of multiple problems (Schmalleger, 2014, p. 226).

The chapter describes five new conflict perspectives. Left-realist criminology touches such issues as street crime, everyday victimization, and fear of crime. It includes radical and Marxist directions. It is criticized for being ideological rather that theoretical. Feminist criminology states that crime and its understanding by specialists in criminology are affected dramatically be sexism and the imbalance of power between genders in patriarchial society. Feminist criminology has variations within radical, Marxist, social, and postmodern feminism. Postmodernist criminology denies the ability of criminologists to provide an unbiased analysis of the problem of crime since their perception is shaped by sexist, classist, and racist assumptions. It assumes that all previous approaches to criminology failed to suggest reliable ideas for crime control. Peacemaking criminology makes a transition in the in the issue of crime control from how to stop crime to how to achieve peace in society and between citizens and criminal justice institutions. Convict criminology is a group of criminology writings created by former inmates and convicted offenders, who have earned a degree in criminology or are associated with those, who have a degree (Schmalleger, 2014, p. 227-237).

The crime-control implications of social conflict theories are the following: to make crime rates go down, it is necessary to perform social changes and alter the distribution of wealth in society. Marxist and peacemaking criminologies are extremes since they offer too radical changes. Other directions suggest more reasonable changes (Schmalleger, 2014, p. 237).

The differences between the consensus, pluralist, and conflict perspectives consist in the following. The consensus and pluralist perspectives concentrate on the problem of values and beliefs. While the former recognizes one set of them in a society, the latter sees multiple sets. Unlike these theories, the conflict perspective revolves around the distribution of power in society. To my opinion, the consensus perspective is too positive and unrealistic, whereas the conflict perspective is too narrow. The pluralist perspective describes the existing social order in the most accurate way, and for that reason it is the closest to my way of understanding society.


Schmalleger, F. (2014). Criminology today: An integrative introduction (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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