Crime is a complex social phenomenon that has been studied by many sociologists over the years. One theory that argues crime is due to social conflict is known as conflict theory. This theory suggests that crime results from the conflicts in society between different groups with differing levels of power and access to resources.

What is Conflict Theory?

Conflict theory views society as a competition for limited resources, including wealth, power, and prestige. According to this theory, individuals and groups compete for these resources and engage in conflicts with one another to gain an advantage. These conflicts can take many forms, including economic class struggle, racial and ethnic tension, gender inequality, and political strife.

How Does Conflict Theory Explain Crime?

Conflict theorists argue that crime results from the struggles between different groups within society. Those who lack access to resources may turn to illegal activities as a means of survival or advancement. For example, individuals who are denied access to education or job opportunities may turn to drug dealing or theft as a way of making money.

Furthermore, conflict theorists suggest that the criminal justice system itself is biased against certain groups within society. They argue that law enforcement agencies are more likely to Target low-income neighborhoods or minority populations for policing than they are higher-income areas or predominantly white communities.

Examples of Social Conflict and Crime

One example of social conflict leading to crime can be seen in the history of organized crime in America. In the early 20th century, immigrants from Italy’s Sicilian region faced discrimination and limited opportunities for employment in the United States. As a result, they formed criminal organizations like the Mafia as a means of survival.

Another example can be seen in protests against police brutality and racial profiling in recent years. Many people argue that these issues stem from long-standing tensions between law enforcement agencies and minority communities.


Conflict theory provides a useful framework for understanding the relationship between social conflict and crime. By recognizing that crime often results from struggles over limited resources, we can work towards creating a more just and equitable society. This involves addressing systemic inequalities in access to education, employment, and other resources, as well as promoting policies that reduce bias in the criminal justice system.