Conflict Theory on Crime & Deviance


Conflict theory is the idea that groups of people compete for access to resources. Crime and deviance are the perceived outcome when an oppressed group violates the interests and norms of the group in power.


  • Karl Marx related conflict theory to a capitalist society. Marxist conflict theory links crime to activities that threaten the wealthy class.


  • The effect of conflict theory on crime and deviance can be a function of several types of power struggles: economic, social and cultural to name a few. Those who control access to resources retain the power to define norms and laws.


  • Conflict theory is significant because it introduces the idea that crime is a function of oppression. The norms and values of the powerful dictate the definition of crime and the appropriate punishment.


  • In conflict theory, the oppressed class is always at a disadvantage because it cannot access the resources it needs. Attempting to gain possession threatens the powerful and is considered deviant or criminal.


  • Not all crimes are the direct result of oppression and the powerful do not always seek to punish people in other classes.


  • Essential Criminology; Mark Lanier & Stuart Henry; 2004
  • Photo Credit Wojciech Sadlej/
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