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2.) History/Anthropology

2a.) Emile Durkheim On Crime And Punishment


Students do not generally find Emile Durkheim easy. So, why begin with him? Aren’t there
others criminologists who less abstruse that one could begin with?

There are many criminologists less difficult than Durkheim, but few of them dig as deeply,
travel as far, or aim at satisfying so thoroughly. Later on, we shall eat these words and,
indeed, find grave fault with Durkheim; but for the moment he does not have to be
understood in Toto. But the tone he sets and the line he takes are worth acquainting
oneself with.

To get over initial difficulties, however, let us begin by asking something apparently

If we initial questions, like – What is crime? What do we mean by punishment? And what is
the link between crime and punishment? If we ask these questions of Durkheim, he ready
answers. He will reply as follows.

Crime is something that offends every normal individual’s strong and defined sentiments.
This is what Durkheim means by crime. Would you agree with this simple definition of
crime in general?

Secondly, what about punishment? Punishment, for Durkheim, is a passionate reaction, of

graduated intensity. The passionate reaction is aimed at the criminal. Nothing could be
simpler. But, again, do you agree with this formulation?

Finally, is there a link between crime and punishment so defined?

According to Durkheim, there is. Crime and punishment are linked through what he called
our social or ‘ collective conscience’ – and it is this ‘conscience collective’ that makes
crime intensively offensive to us and it also makes punishment society’s social resolution
to crime. Would you agree?

None of these ideas (except, perhaps, the last) can be thought of in any respect as difficult
to understand. Like so many others, you might want to hear more about this ‘collective
conscience’. It is hardly the kind of concept you expect social scientists to use. And yet,
the notion is not too removed from the Christian conscience, and even less so from the
Catholic viewpoint, according to which we are all to be judged on the day of ‘general
judgement.’ This concept of the ‘day of general judgement’, implies a general conscience
and is arguably not that far removed from Durkheim`s earlier notion of the ‘ collective

On this page, we elaborate on Durkheim’s response to the above questions. But first of all
we introduce the work Emile Durkheim On Crime and Punishment , list some abbreviations
that might prove useful, as well as the contents of the text.


By their very nature theories of crime and punishment presuppose the more primary
theoretical formulations both of evolution and society, the one answering the theoretical
time requirement, the other the spacial requirement, and each symbiotically related to the
other in an integral theory of social evolution. Into such an overall perspective sink
Durkheim`s theories of crime and punishment.

It is the intention of this essay to explicate these theories without, it is hoped, paying too
much attention to extra- criminological or penological concerns at their expense. In his
theory of evolution, for example, Durkheim felt the necessity to differentiate himself, from
Comte and Spencer ; in his social theory from theorists like Rousseau, J. Stuart Mill,
Hobbes, Machiavelli ; in his theory of crime from Lombroso, Tarde, Garofalo and the Italian
School ; and in his theory of punishment (as in his ‘theory’ of the State) from Kant and the
Utilitarians. In anthropology, philosophy, religion, political economy, morality and pedagogy
similar differentiations are made. There is, therefore, in a work of this modest nature, an
obvious need to choose not just what is pertinent to Durkheim`s theories of crime and
punishment, but, also, what is important.

Since the aim of the essay is an expositional account of these theories, the more popular
interest in `anomie` and ‘suicide’ are not formally dealt with. Because of this overriding
perspective and the lack of space available, criticism has practically been reduced to a
hurried sixth chapter. This latter constraint has also prohibited recourse to original French
texts. Consequently, there is a total reliance on popular translations of Durkheim`s major
works - a reliance which, if we are to accept the advice of the erudite, must necessarily
cast some doubt on the interpretation which these pages purport to ascribe to Durkheim`s
theories of crime and punishment. Steven Lukes has found serious fault with these
translations, particularly the two major texts upon which this essay has heavily relied, viz.
‘The Division of Labour’ and ‘The Rules.` (cf. Lukes, n. 589). In view of such limitations
one can do no more than reiterate Lukes. ‘We urgently need a standard English edition of
Durkheim`s works” (Ibid).

The following abbreviations should be familiarized by the reader , lest their repeated
appearance irritate him unduly. I am not at all convinced that the use of these
abbreviations benefits either the reader or the writer one whit - but it seemed like a good
idea at the time.
Abbreviatons Used


The Division of Labour in Society, trans. by G. Simpson, 1933
The Rules of The Sociological Method, trans. by S.A. Soloway and J.H. Mueller, 1938
Suicide: A Study in Sociology, trans. by J.A. Spaulding and G. Simpson, 1975
Two Laws of Penal Evolution, trans. by T. Anthony Jones and Andrew T. Scull, Economy
and Society, v. 2, no. 3, Aug., 1973
The introduction to TLOPE by Jones and Scull
The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, trans. by J.W. Swain, 1976
Education and Sociology, trans. by S.D. Fox, 1956
Sociology and Philosophy, trans. by D. F. Pocock, 1933
Moral Education, trans. by E.K. Wilson and H. Schnurer, 1961
Professional Ethics and Civic Morals, trans. by C. Brookfield, 1957
Steven Lukes: ‘Emile Durkheim: His Life and Work, A Historical and Critical Study’, 1973.
Emile Durkheim on Crime and Punishment
By Seamus Breathnach.

1. Emile Durkheim On Crime And Punishment A
ISBN: 1581121547
Format: Paper Back
Author: Seamus Breathnach
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Introduction I

Chapter 1: Criminology and Philosophy 1

Chapter 2:
Criminal and Penal Statics 14
A. Criminal Statics or Crime Defined
B. Penal Statics or Punishment Defined 24
C. Crime and Punishment 29

Chapter 3:
Criminal and Penal Dynamics 42
A. Social Dynamics
B. Criminal Dynamics 56
C. Penal Dynamics 67

Chapter 4:
Crime and Punishment and the State 77
A. The State
B. Crime and the State 94
C. Punishment and the State 100

Chapter 5:
The Moral, the Methodological, and the Normal 108
A. Crime and Morality
B. Methodology 135
C. Normal Crime 149

Chapter 6 :
Notes Towards a Critical Appreciation 138
A. Criminal Statics or Crime Defined
B. Penal Statics or Punishment Defined 24
C. Crime and Punishment 29

Appendix A 145
Abbreviations Used Throughout Reference Notes 148
References 149


A crime is an act which offends strong and defined states of the collective conscience,
because the only characteristics common to all crimes, which are or have been recognized
as such, are the following:

(a) A crime offends sentiments which are found among all normal individuals of any given

(b) These sentiments are strong ;

(c) These sentiments are defined.

Let us examine these three ingredients.

(a) The Sentiments of Normal Individuals

In arriving at this proposition Durkheim -- methodologically speaking – distinguishes

himself from (i) Garafalo and (ii) The Marxists, particularly Quinney,

If, as Durkheim initially commended, we set out to enumerate acts ubiquitously recognized
as crimes and attempt to classify their characteristics, we would, he claimed, wind up with
a set of crimes - indeed universally recognized - but which would be small and exceptional
in number. This type of natural crime would total the offenses that are contrary to universal
sentiments and would be, on that account, the ‘ invariable part of the moral sense and that
alone’. Such a method, he held is faulty on a number of grounds. If, for example, we tried
to collate them with a list of acts universally punished, we would not be satisfied, because
the latter would be excessive whereas the former, being a collection only common to all
societies, would be minimal.

Secondly, such a method would exclude crimes which offend some particular sentiment
but which are on that account no less crimes. Thirdly, for Durkheim, all delicts are natural.
Consequently, Garafalo`s specification of natural crimes seems to be a return to Spencer’s
doctrine,(27) ‘which treats social life as truly natural only in industrial societies’ .

“The result is that his (Garafalo`s) notion of crime is singularly incomplete. It is vacillating
because its author does not trouble himself to enter into a comparison of all social
systems, but excludes a great number that he treats as abnormal. One can say of a social
fact that it is abnormal relative to the type of the species, but a species cannot be
abnormal. The two words cannot be joined “. (28)

Finally, since the variations of repressive law present diversity, their ‘constant
characteristic’ cannot be found among the intrinsic properties of acts prohibited by penal
rules, but must rather be sought ‘in the relations that they sustain with some condition
external to them’. (28)

Is this relation between actions that are crimes and the society which designates them so
to be explained in terms of certain great social interests? In other words, do penal rules
announce the fundamental conditions of collective life for each social type? If so, such a
view would, according to Durkheim, derive from the notion of social necessity, and as
these necessities varied the variability of repressive law which accommodates them would
be explained.

Durkheim rejected such a theory. Why? Because 'it accords too large a part in the
direction of social evolution to calculation and reflection'. Besides that , there are some
crimes which have been, and still are, graded as criminal without in themselves being
harmful to society, (29) e.g. touching a tabooed object, an impure animal or man, or, 'in
letting the sacred fire die down,' etc.

Moreover, if necessity was an adequate theory, why, he asks, are the greater disasters to
society, such as economic crises, crashes on the stock exchange - why are these not
penalised? Of course the simple answer here may well be that we cannot so readily
apportion blame - much less criminal activity - to any particular
person or persons for an economic crisis. And if properly understood, economic crises are
more apt to have been occasioned by society as a whole rather than any identifiable
individual or group of individuals.

Further, if social necessity was theoretically sound, it would have to account for the fact
that murder, which is not, socially speaking, very harmful (for 'what is one man less to
society?'), is nevertheless the greatest of crimes amongst the most civilized peoples. What
gives point to this argument is the fact that if murder went unpunished future general
security would be menaced. It is in this sense that murder is looked upon as a great social
harm, and requires explanation. There is also the further residual argument, which the
'social interest' theorists must explain, and that is, why the disproportionate punishment
meted out to murderers in no way accords with the social significance of the danger they
present to society.

In sum, therefore, some acts, more disastrous to society, go unpunished, while other acts,
less dangerous, are disproportionately punished. How can a theory based on social
necessity reconcile these anomalies? For Durkheim, such a theory cannot reconcile them.
Consequently, a definition of crime derived from such a theory is demonstrably

But if the theory is modified somewhat, if we define criminal acts as those which seem
harmful to society, and set penal rules solely to protect what appears to society as the
conditions of its essential life, what then? Can the theory not be rescued?

For Durkheim, the theory is still faulty. The question arises, for example, as to why so
many societies are mistaken as to the social interests, which control their ideology. Why
have they imposed practices, which by themselves were not even useful? If such practices
were useful, it would be an explanation of sorts, but Durkheim rejects a utilitarian argument
as being contrary to the facts. He also urges us to take it that society, in obliging each
individual to obey its rules, does so, rightly or wrongly, because 'this regular and punctual
obedience is indispensable' to it.

At this stage Durkheim will not take us further with his argument. As to why penal practices
are socially necessary, it is sufficient, he feels, to assert that obedience is 'indispensable'
to society. Consequently, the only common characteristic of all crimes is that they consist
in acts universally disapproved ofby members of each society. There are two indirect
qualifications to this formof Durkheimian reasoning which are of significance, particularly to
thosewho, like Sorel, criticized him for not going further in the direction of Marxismwith his
analysis. First, Durkheim sees no necessity to 'see in crime a maladyor an error.'
Secondly, his inquiry seeks 'to determine what crime is or has been,not what it ought to

Thus far, therefore, we have established that in identifying the collectivesentiments whose
violation constitutes a crime, rather than draw up a list ofinfractions which would be subject
to infinite variability, we can distinguish themby one single trait, namely, 'they are common
to the average mass of individuals ofthe same society.' (30) In refuting the 'social-interest'
theorists, it will be observedthat Durkheim was not concerned with the 'average' mass of
individuals, or thepossibility of this average being segmental or elitist. It is a social
Such a definition, however, helps to explain two legal phenomena, the legal maxim‘
ignorance of the law is no excuse’ and, secondly, the manner in which penal law
In the first case, ignorance of the law becomes no excuse only if it is possible that its
contents are common knowledge. Unlike restitutive sanctions, penal ones ‘are graven in all
consciences’ such that everybody in the society to which they apply knows them and feels
them to be well founded.

(Obviously such a finding is highly significant to small societies – like Ireland , perhaps, or
even smaller communities. Is it because of this smallness that religious norms can have
such a strong hold – and conversely, when there are two or more vying for supremacy,
such violence attending upon their derivative institutions? Moreover, was this the reason
that Aristotle thought that the ‘Police’, a society of around 5,000 inhabitants, was a better
sized society to live in? Is such a society better for human development than ,say, one
which can , because of its extra size, afford great swimming pools, football arenas, etc?
Obviously, crime might be at a minimum here; but only if the norms or religion in that
society was homogeneous and shared – not as a measure of coercion, but as a matter of
voluntary engagement. Should communities and cities be allowed to grow indiscriminately
or according to the laws of capital formation??

In the second case, since every written law has the double object of prescribing certain
obligations and defining their sanction in the breach, we need to explain why civil law (and,
more generally, restitutive sanctions) sets out only the duty, whereas penal law only sets
out the sanction. Durkheim explains that, in the case of civil law, the legislator solves the
two questions separately by initially determining the obligation and leaving it to the courts
to later stipulate its condign sanction. Penal law, however, says nothing of duty but simply
sets forth only sanctions; it does not command respect for the life of another, but kills the
assassin. The absence of the rule, the obligation, the duty not to kill can only be explained
by one reason, and that is that it is already known and accepted by everybody.

Moreover, when a law of custom becomes initially written and codified, it is because a
more definite solution is demanded not so much as to what the rule is but what its
punishment should be. It is thus that the graduated scale of punishment lends itself to

Inversely, rules not requiring legal formulation but whose breach is nonetheless punished,
remain unformulated because they are not the object of litigious contest; their authority is,
in other words, felt by everybody.

(b) What then, does Durkheim mean by ‘Strong Sentiments’.

By merely saying that crime consists of an offense to collective sentiments, we stop short
of defining it. Incest, for example, is an offense, yet it was not held to be a crime in certain
civilized countries until early in the twentieth century. To constitute a crime, therefore, we
must go further and say, not just that the sentiments to which crime corresponds must be
engraven on all consciences, but it must be strongly engraven there. In other words, to
constitute a crime, collective sentiments must singularize themselves from others by some
additional distinctive property; “they must have a certain average intensity”. (32)

To prove this proposition Durkheim observes the extreme slowness with which penal law
evolves in comparison with civil law. Because they are ingrained in us penal law evolves
very slowly from lower to higher societies, whereas civil law, including commercial,
administrative and constitutional law, has a higher growth rate. In lower societies law is
almost exclusively penal’, stationary, religious, repressive and conservative. (33) “This
fixity of penal law evinces the restrictive force of the collective sentiments to which it
corresponds. Inversely, the very great plasticity of purely moral rules and the relative
rapidity of their evolution show the smaller force of the sentiments at their base; either they
have been more recently acquired and have not yet had time to penetrate deeply into
consciences, or they are in process of losing strength and moving from depth to
surface.” (34)

(c) What does Durkheim mean by ‘Defined Sentiments’?

Unlike the diffuse sentiments which purely moral sanctions protect, those which crime
offends are, as we have seen, stronger and more organized. But our feelings concerning
familial love, or our duty to be charitable, for example, are no less intense, yet we do not
make the wayward son or ‘the most hardened egotist’ criminals. The distinction here lies in
the fact that ‘ sentiments like filial love or charity are vague (35), aspirations towards very
general objects . whereas those sentiments which constitute a crime are always
determined. Moral rules are ‘generally somewhat nebulous’, whereas penal laws ‘are
remarkable for their neatness and precision ,’ (36)
Unlike the inchoate nature of moral rules, therefore, penal rules incarnate sentiments that
are determined. Because each sentiment forbids the commission or omission of this or
that practice it has to have arrived at a very defined state and is, consequently, more
uniform than moral sentiments -- that is, penal rules ‘cannot be understood in different
ways, they are ever the same’. (37)


Now that we have some idea of what crime is really about , where does punishment come
into it?

To prove that his definition of crime was exact, Durkheim sought to find a correspondence
between the elements in his definition of crime and those constituting punishment, the
latter acting as a cheek on the reliability of the former. Since ‘what characterizes crime is
that it determines punishment’, it follows that if Durkheim`s definition of crime is exact, it
ought to explain all the characteristics of punishment’. (39)


(a) Punishment is a passionate reaction, of graduated Intensity.,

(b) This passionate reaction emanates from society;

(c) This reaction is enforced through the intermediary of a constituted body.

Let us now examine what he meant by three ingredients of punishment

(a) Punishment Is a Passionate Reaction, of Graduated Intensity

Since passion is the very soul of punishment it ceases only when it becomes exhausted.
We can observe the passionate nature of punishment in the roles played by defense and
prosecuting counsel in the crimina1 courts. Defense counsel seeks to excite sympathy for
the defendant and the prosecution evokes the social sentiments which the accused has
violated. In varying degrees the judge and/or the jury mediates between these contrary

The more a society approximates a traditional type, the more passionate and the less
tempered by reflection its punishments are. Primitive peoples punish for the sake of
punishing. The passionate and reflexive reaction to hurt done is applied neither justly nor
usefully. Even in later times, up to the seventeenth and eighteenth century, as
Radzinowitz`s research or the New gate Calendar will testify, the reagent of punishment
has a tendency to surpass the hurt done by the criminal act, even after the criminal has
been destroyed. These refinements of pain were added to capital punishment to signify the
force of society’s passionate reaction as yet unspent. This explains the doctrine of

Today, however, society no longer (it is said) punishes to avenge itself, but rather to defend
itself. Chastisement does not provide satisfaction for society; it punishes rather to instill a
fear of punishment, so that such fear ‘ may paralyze those who contemplate evil’. (40) This
explains the doctrine of deterrence (individual and general). But how can this change from
retributive sentiments to deterrent ones be explained?

For Durkheim it is vain to try and distinguish between these two forms of punishment in
terms of themselves. The forms of punishment may adapt themselves to new conditions of
existence without there being any essential change in the nature of punishment itself :‘In
the final social analysis, the essential elements of punishment are the same as of old’ (41)
Between the punishment of today and yesterday there is no chasm (42)Consequently, to
accommodate itself to the role that it plays in our civilized societies, the nature of
punishment did not have to change. But what, then, is the nature of punishment?

In answering this question we should first understand that it is erroneous to believe that
vengeance is merely useless cruelty. In itself it may indeed be a mechanical and aimless
reaction aimed at destruction, ‘ but, in fact, what it tends to destroy was a menace to us’.
Vengeance consists, then,‘ in a veritable act of defense, although an instinctive and
unreflective one’. (43) And since we only avenge ourselves upon that which has done us
evil and is, consequently, dangerous, vengeance is, ‘in sum, only the instinct of
conservation exacerbated by peril’. (44)

At least in part, therefore, punishment has an element of vengeance in it. More importantly,
however, by supposing that punishment protects us in the future ‘we think that it ought to
be above all an expiation of the past’. The proof of this”, claims Durkheim,

“lies in the minute precautions we take to proportion punishment as exactly as possible to

the severity of the crime; they would be inexplicable if we did not believe that the culpable
ought to suffer because he has done evil and in the same degree?’. (46) If defense, rather
than expiation, was the primary motive for punishment, then punishment would be meted
out to match the obduracy of the criminal, and a robber who robs as intensely as a
murderer murders would be administered the same punishment. There would be no need
to scale punishments to the gravity of the crimes committed. But this is not the case: while
the principle of retaliation remains the nature of punishment in general, the criminal act
nevertheless determines the nature of the punishment meted out. If, moreover, the criminal
is incurable, ‘we would feel bound not to chastise him unduly’. (47)

Indeed, we may not measure the crime-and-punishment equation‘ in so material and gross
a manner’ as formerly, but we always think that such an equation should exist. Punishment
may well be better directed than formerly it was, but its nature has not changed:

“It is still an act of vengeance since it is an expiation. What we avenge, what the criminal
expiates, is the outrage to morality’. (48)

(b) This Passionate Reaction Emanates From Society

What puts this almost self-evident proposition beyond doubt for Durkheim is the fact that
once a sentence is pronounced, it cannot be lifted except by intervention of government in
the name of society. This is so because, in attacking the individual, the criminal is
simultaneously attacking society, and society arrogates to itself the right of repression by

Even where ‘ delicta privata,’ were possible, e.g. in Greece and Rome, the offences
committed were not crimes proper. Nevertheless, the offenders were punished in the name
of the city.

Furthermore, the argument suggesting that the custom of the vendetta amounted to
private punishment or that it was ‘primitively the unique form of punishment’, is not,
according to Durkheim, tenable.

Not a single society”, he claims, ‘ can be instanced where the vendetta s been the primitive
form of punishment. On the contrary, it is certain that penal law was essentially religious in
its origin’. (49) By reasoning thus we come back to one of the primary postulates of
Durkheimian criminology: since religious life is essentially social, primitive societies are
found to avenge offenses against their God(s). ‘ But offenses against the gods are
offenses against society’. (50)

(The identity of Society with God in Durkheimian analysis is quite cogent and should be
reflected upon in the Irish context. Whereas the concept ‘God’ is invariably sanitized,
paralyzed and out of everybody’s reach, Society is a much more pro-active and malleable
item. Through the earliest notions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ , even before the Church’s
Penitentials, there were moral rules; but those who impose moral rules invariably claim
power over the people and impose their morals. In this regard: was there any capital
punishment in Ireland before the Christian Conquest? Or did the Christians introduce it to
punish the pagan Gaels? How did the early church abolish polygamy amongst the native
Irish in favour of monogamy, and why? Did women have Goddesses in Gaelic Ireland –
like Sile Na Gig – and how and why did the Christian Conquest crush the spirituality of
women in Ireland?

We can see from our own history/anthropology how those who seize society --whether
they be political parties, do-gooders, powerful monied people, songsters, sportsmen, or
journalists – must on reflection be very organized in themselves in order to sustain such an
assault on society as a whole. We can also see that individuals , whatever their interests,
cannot really govern or change society – they could never have the power to do so –nor ,
for that matter, are individuals likely to want to. Our greatest artists try to make us see for
ourselves who governs our society, how it runs, who and how powerful organizations seize
the power-centres of education, finance, justice, foreign affairs, and govern them on our
purported behalf; how they even hide their interests or apologise for seizing these power-
centres. Sometimes , the social power that Durkheim equates with God , hides behind the
concept of God, even behind politicians and parties. The artist and the sociologist knows
that the people must learn for themselves how to see the knots and chains that are daily
imposed upon the body of people called Society, sometimes in the name of God, and
always under the guise of ‘ good’.)

(c) This Reaction Is Enforced Through the Intermediary of a Constituted

What distinguishes legal repression from other forms of repressing immoral actions is that
it is organized, i.e. its administration is given over to some definite and established social

It would be wrong to think that simply because collective sentiments are enforced through
intermediaries, be they juries, magistrates, etc., or that they localise themselves in a
restricted number of consciences, that they are on that account less collective in spirit. (51)
On the contrary, by submitting the collective reaction to a definite organ as an intermediary
between the offender and the collectivity whose sentiments are offended, the collective
sentiments constituting the passionate reaction cease to be diffuse and become, instead,

Just as he had qualified his analysis of crime Durkheim, at this stage, insisted that his
analysis of punishment was based on punishment as it is or has been, not as it ought to

Thus far, then, we have looked at Durkheim`s definition of crime and his definition of
punishment. What we haven’t touched on is the connection between both these two
defined concepts. It is at this stage that we have to travel much further than we might
initially have wanted to. To understand the matter more thoroughly we would have to touch
upon Durkheim`s theory of sanctions, his account of ‘the average’ the healthy’, ‘the
normal’, and various other concepts, including a definition of the ‘social fact’ and the
methodology of sociological reasoning. Nevertheless, we have made a beginning, and the
only thing to do now is to go forward.


So important is the link between crime and punishment and the collective conscience from
which both derive, that it is hardly possible to conceive of Durkheimian sociology without
being first acquainted with it. Moreover, this triangular mechanism is so bound up with his
total sociology that an understanding of the latter is almost imperative to an understanding
of the former.

In the Division of Labour, for example, this mechanism permeates his notions concerning
social solidarity, evolution, and, derivatively, anomie; in the Rules, he calls upon it to
support his arguments concerning the methodological status of definition, causality in
nature, and the social norm. In Suicide, the egoistic and anomic forms it assumes are but
extended correlates of the conditions of social solidarity enunciated in the Division of
Labour; in the ‘Elementary Forms’ he devotes (53) a chapter to ‘interdictions’, which are
the primitive forms of sanction ; in the ‘laws’; his theory of sanctions, his treatment of
discipline in education, his notion of civics and morals - all contain the same or a similar
mechanism; or, perhaps, what is more correct, the same mechanism applied to different
orders of phenomena.

It is not surprising, therefore, since this mechanism plays such a central role in Durkheim`s
thought, that he has referred to it several times throughout his work - a necessity borne out
of the confusion which, to some extent, he generates himself. In the Division of Labour, for
example, we see how Durkheim derived the characteristics of punishment from his
definition of crime. In the ‘laws’ he further states that ‘since punishment results from crime
and expresses the manner in which it affects the public conscience, it is in the evolution of
crime that we must seek the cause determining the evolution of punishment’ (54) But six
years earlier in the Rules he had stated that ` in order to understand crime, we must begin
with punishment’ (55) . In his ‘Sociology and Philosophy’, when dealing with the same link,
though on the moral level, (i.e., why the act of murder, for example should be sanctioned
at all) he wrote: “I do not as yet know the origin or explanation of this link. I merely note its
existence and nature, without at the moment going any further’ .(56) In ‘Moral Education,
he yet again – if more positively reveals his concern with this problem:

‘What is there in common between punishment and offense? They seem to be two
heterogeneous things coupled artificially. But this is because we do not see the middle
term that links them, that makes a bridge from one to the other: the sentiment evoked by
the offence and from which the penalty results, the feeling that it is the result of the act and
the essence of punishment”. (57)