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Conflict Theory and Labeling Theory

The social conflict theory of crime maintains that a small group of wealthy and powerful individuals control not only the majority of resources in society but also social institutions that reinforce the power and wealth of the status quo at the expense of less powerful groups. This leads to inequalities that are inherent in such a class oriented system in the view of liberals, but conservatives see these inequalities as the natural outcome of differences in abilities or skills among people. As conservative political analyst George Will wrote, "poverty is simply the result of too many black babies and too many irresponsible Black men" among African Americans (Spriggs, 2006, p. 14). It is this historical difference that informs and shapes society's response to criminal behavior where both prevention and punishment is concerned. For example, conservatives favor stiff sentences for drug offenders whereas liberals promote prevention and rehabilitation programs.

Social conflict theory maintains that deviance (crime, suicide, etc.) arises when a gap exists between the rewards held out by the status quo as attainable and the denial of access to routes of attaining those rewards for subgroups in society. As Brown, Esbensen, and Geis (2001) explain, "Conflict theorists believe that norms do not reflect a consensus of society to protect the community


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Conflict Theory and Labeling Theory. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 23:39, October 25, 2014, from
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