What Is the Consensus View of Crime?

The consensus view of crime regards crime as “illegal behavior defined by existing criminal law,” as described by Dr. Larry J. Siegel in his book, “Criminology.” The consensus view, along with the interactionist and conflict views, are the three perspectives that criminologists take on crime and criminal behavior.

In “Criminology,” Siegel states that the interactionist view interprets the concept of crime as one that changes relative to a society’s present moral values. The conflict view interprets crime as any behavior that the economically powerful class defines as such.

A faculty webpage of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte clarifies the differences between the consensus, interactionist and conflict views. In the consensus view, what is defined as crime emerges from general agreement among the citizenry. The lawmakers criminalize actions and behaviors that all strata of society deem repugnant. The consensus view contrasts significantly with the conflict and interactionist views, which both hold that the definition of crime is associated with power in some way. Following the interactionist view, the socially powerful control the definition of crime, casting out individuals who shun social rules. When using the conflict view, the economically powerful control the definition of crime, using it to maintain the wealth and power of the rich.