Emile Durkheim's Theory Of The Relationship Between Law And Society

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Stop and Frisk The enforcement of stop and frisk laws in New York City reflects Emile Durkheim’s theory of the relationship between law and society because the abandonment of stop and frisk laws demonstrates a shift in the collective conscience of the United States. Durkheim in this theory asserts that law is a reflection of the collective conscience of society. Durkheim defines collective conscience as a general consensus on what society has deemed as social norm. This concept of collective conscience is observable through the law, due to the fact that laws are a reflection of what society thinks is immoral and wrong. As the social norms, or collective conscience changes so does the law. Durkheim also believes that crime is a healthy part…show more content…
The idea behind stop and frisk is that a police officer can stop and “may arrest a suspect only if they have probable cause to believe that he committed a crime” (Toobin, NYT, 5/27/13). A police officer just has to suspect someone is doing wrong in order to stop someone, and while this law had good intentions this idea of probable cause has caused problems with the enforcement of the law. Probable cause is very ambiguous and it gives police officers a lot of discretion, which is why this law is very controversial. While the stop and frisk law itself had good intentions the implementation of this law has had racist results because of the collective conscience of society during the enactment of the law. Dunkhiem asserts that law is a reflection of “collective conscience.” The 1960’s collective conscience of what a criminal looks like is young black or Hispanic man. The collective conscience of society at the time deemed young black and Hispanic men to be criminals and wrong doers because they were portrayed by the media as gang members and violent. This explains why the implementation of the law had racist results for “Of more than five million people stopped in New York City during that decade, 4.3 million were black or Hispanic. Nearly 90 percent of those being stopped are released without a summons or an arrest”(Alantic, Glanowski, 8/13). Not only were over 90 percent of…show more content…
Durkheim’s theory of the collective conscience is an important one for it allows the general public to see how laws are a reflection of their thoughts and opinions. Therefore, when laws become outdated they can be changed. This is important to note because laws should change with times. Things like slavery, Jim crow laws, and women rights issues have all had drastic changes in how the law affects them because the collective conscience on those issues have changed. So though stop and frisk only effected a small part of the United States population this idea that the laws are changed when the collective conscience change is an important
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