Durkheim on the Criminal … McAtee on Durkheim

“Nothing is good indefinitely and without limits. The authority which the moral consciousness enjoys must not be excessive, for otherwise no one would dare to attack it and it would petrify too easily into an immutable form. For it to evolve, individual originality must be allowed to manifest itself. But so that the  originality of the idealist who dreams of transcending his era may display itself, that of the criminal, which falls short of the age, must also be possible. One does not go without the other.

Nor is this all. Beyond this indirect utility, crime itself may play a useful part in this evolution. Not only does it imply that the way to necessary changes remains open, but in certain cases it also directly prepares, for these changes. Where crime exists, collective sentiments are not only in the state of plasticity necessary to assume a new form but sometimes it even contributes to determining beforehand the shape they will take on. Indeed, how often is it only an anticipation of the morality to come, a progression towards what will be!”

Emile Durkheim
The Rules of Sociological Method

What the famous sociologist Durkheim is saying here is that crime is necessary because the criminal is pointing the way forward to a new social order morality that is evolving via the criminal. The criminal by his abandoning and violating the law is the evolutionary precursor of the law to come.

Now apply this thinking to sodomy. 60 years ago sodomy was universally outlawed. Sodomites stayed in the closet for fear of penalty. But Durkheim’s humanist methodology was followed and looking back we see that the sodomite of 1958 was really, in fact, the precursor to the new morality we have today. But this new morality also makes for a new criminality as well as a new morality. If the sodomite is going to come out of the closet then the Christian, who still operates by God’s morality, and so consistent with God’s Word warns against the perils of sodomy will be the one who has to go into the closet that the sodomite came out of with the new morality.

Understand also that for Durkheim it is not God’s standard of right and wrong — of legal and illegal — that is the standard for law keeping and morality. Instead, the standard is the general phenomenon of observed behavior. That general phenomenon of observed behavior becomes the new normal and as the standard is merely the general phenomenon of observed behavior any new general phenomenon of newly observed behavior by the criminal class, as practiced in abundance, is a reason to shift the definition of law and morality so that the criminal is no longer criminal.

Clearly what Durkheim is giving us here is an evolutionary morality that redefines itself by the perceived majority report. When enough men, at the same time, together do what is right in their own eyes, then that is right, whatever the perverse or sordid behavior. Crime today then is merely a social evolutionary experimentation which has within itself the wherewithal to vanquish obsolete Christian morality.

Let’s breakdown Durkheim’s first paragraph more closely,

1.) “Nothing is good indefinitely and without limits. The authority which the moral consciousness enjoys must not be excessive, for otherwise no one would dare to attack it and it would petrify too easily into an immutable form

Response

a.) However, it appears that it is good indefinitely and without limit to believe that nothing else except that statement itself is good indefinitely and without limits.

b.) By what standard does Durkheim arrive at this conclusion? By what authority am I to believe that “Nothing is good indefinitely and without limits?” Wouldn’t it be easy to demonstrate that not stealing what legitimately belongs to my neighbor is something good indefinitely and without limit? Wouldn’t it be easy to demonstrate that the prohibition to pedophilia is something good and without limit? Durkheim gives an assertion here but it is only an assertion that has not sustainable authority backing it up.

c.) Clearly, Durkheim’s authority which his moral consciousness is enjoying is excessive. We can easily see that Durkheim’s moral relativism has indeed petrified easily into an immutable form. Where are those who are attacking Durkheim’s moral relativism arguing for a morality standard which grows out of the soil of God’s Word?

For Durkheim, the criminal is the evolutionary signpost of where social order morality is headed. In this mentality, it is easy to understand why criminals are often treated so lightly. If the criminal is the harbinger of our future morality then the criminal should be sympathized with and indeed, even perhaps seen as a noble savage.

 

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Kinist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture . Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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