Criminological Conflict Theory by Sykes

Sykes identified three important elements, which he used to elucidate the criminological conflict theory. First, Sykes highlighted the existence of profound skepticism towards any theory associated with crimes and is not connected to any biological or psychological approach. He also argued that sociological theories have insufficient communization (Bystrova & Petter, 2015). People are stigmatized using the label “criminal” rather than identifying the determining attributes that distinguish criminal and non-criminal aspects of an individual.

Second, he posited that critical criminological foundations have been marked by a significant shift in elucidating the reasons behind pertinent agencies’ actions particularly those that deal with crime. According to Sykes, many researchers have propounded that the criminal justice framework was typically harsh and unjust and that the people who suffered the most were the poor and minorities (Bystrova & Petter, 2015). The argument was that the legal agencies were often flawed due to inadequate funds, corruption, and policies considered unenlightened.

Third, Sykes posited that the integrity of the criminal statute had been questioned intermittently, particularly regarding the roles played by American criminologists. The plea of insanity, death sentence, the juvenile delinquency definition, and gambling prohibition were areas that were openly scrutinized in critical nature. Criminologists dismissed the idea forwarded by Michael and Adler that most people in a communal setup believe that behavior proscribed by criminal law is undesirable from a social point of view. Instead, they argued against the viewing of criminal law as the community’s universal moral judgments as pushed by the government as the legitimate reference point by everyone.


Bystrova, E. G., & Petter, G. (2015). Social conflict theory and white-collar criminals: Why does the ruling class punish their own? Pakistan Journal of Criminology, 7(1):1-15. Web.

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