The police are referred to as
a civil force of government who are accountable for the prevention and control
of crime, and ensuring the protection and public order of the community. Both
Weber and Durkheim have developed different historical sketches of the police
in regards to the state’s role in maintaining social order, and the relationship
between the police and the public. Weber regards the police as coercive in
efforts to legitimize monopoly, whereas Durkheim argues that the state strives
to create social solidarity and uphold morality. The theoretical perspective
that is perceived as most compelling is Weber’s, as he recognizes the state’s
push for a hidden agenda, whereas Durkheim exclusively focuses on the state as
a binding social factor in society. This paper will argue that in contrast to
Weber’s theory, Durkheim’s understating of the state’s role is flawed, particularly
his blind optimism in regards to the criminal justice system’s agenda, and the
way in which he assumes a homogeneous population.

            Weber and
Durkheim both view the police as a core segment of the state. Their theories
discuss the relationship between the state and the public in light of
morality/social values and the capacity to use force (Terpstra 2011). Weber
believes that the police implement solutions to criminality through the use of force/coercion
(Terpstra 2011). The Weberian approach places an emphasis on a monopoly of
violence, in which the police use force to sustain the power of the state. According
to Weber, this monopoly of violence leads to a direct opposition between the
state and the public. For example, the only individual who can harm other
individuals are police officers (Williams 2018: Lecture 2). More importantly, Weber
asserts that the police and the criminal justice system are keen on protecting
the interests of the upper class or “bourgeoisie.” In support of this, Marquis
(1992) argues that the “historiographic tradition is the conscious strategy of
the dominant classes to cultivate or impose the bourgeois values upon the
proletariat” (p.336). Thus, the way in which the police exercise power is
rooted in social hierarchy and stratification, and the conflict between the
upper class and working class communities has always prevailed.

contrast, Durkheim asserts that the state is built upon moral values and helps bind
the community together through social bonds and interactions. His analysis
first begins with the observation that there has been a shift from a
kinship-based society to a complex one characterized by a division of labor
(Terpstra 2011). A highly stratified society is in need of social cohesion and
therefore requires state intervention. In light of Durkheim’s view, the police
are regarded as “moral agents” who are responsible for ensuring welfare and
safeguarding the public’s health (Williams 2018: Lecture 2).  In terms of police legitimacy, the Durkheimian
perspective runs parallel to social legitimacy, in which citizens place their
trust in the police’s abilities and motives (Terpstra 2011). The Weberian
perspective however runs parallel to normative legitimacy which places emphasis
on values such as justice, human dignity and justified treatment (Terpstra
2011). Therefore, his perspective on the function of the state touches upon the
symbolic or moral aspect of policing, whereas Weber’s perspective touches upon
the rational or political perspectives.

As mentioned, Weber and
Durkheim hold opposing interpretations about the relations between the police
and the public. Firstly, Durkheim believes that both the government and police
carry out duties that are set to incriminate the deviants, and satisfy the
needs of victims, which in turn will enhance and maintain social solidarity
within society. Durkheim over-emphasizes the state’s role in support of social
welfare, turning a blind eye to its political or economic agenda. He does not
fully explore the role of the state and how they may be serving their own
interests rather than the common good’s interests. To illustrate, Rawlings
(!995) argues that dealing with crimes in the Eighteenth Century is extremely
time consuming, costly, and an overall unsatisfactory experience for the victims
of crime. This also remains true for today. In addition, the system does not
put any effort into identifying the offender in majority of the cases (Rawlings
1995). To illustrate, Neocleous (1998) argues that the two primary objectives
of police officers are “wealth production and the development of commerce” (p.435).
This leads to implementing policies which facilitate money supply, population
growth and international trade (Neocleous 1998). Thus, the state is then more
concerned with factors such as international trade, and the production of money
rather than addressing the sensitive needs of the public. Conversely, Weber
provides a more practical approach and argues that the state’s decisions protect
the interests of the ruling class. The Weberian perspective sheds light on
Smith’s argument which is that the criminal justice system has adopted a “market-driven”
approach to maintaining order within society, Adam’s Smith’s economical
approach (Neocleous 1998). Therefore, Durkheim’s assumption that the state
represents important moral values `and binds societies together is flawed, as
the state’s efforts to control crime create a further divide between the state
and the public.

Durkheim also fails
to take into account the heterogeneity of the population. Durkheim assumes that
the state has the public’s interests at heart without recognizing the benefit
the ruling class may have over the lower class populations’ beliefs and values.
Weber’s theories remain more compelling as he accounts for the “opposition”
between the state and public. On the other hand, Durkheim assumes that the
state and the public are synonymous and essentially want the same things. For example,
a widespread opinion exists which is that the poor are more susceptible to
crime because they are lazy and incapable of working hard (Rawlings 1994).