There is much deliberation on the definition of crime, because it ia viewed differently in every culture. However, W. Ivins (1911) offers an excellent starting point in defining the root meaning of the word. He stated, "we start with the fundamental fact that crime is the point of conflict between the individual and society. The war is perennial and grows more intense with the complexity of social relations and of human nature." But contemporary psychologists have been able to establish three common views for defining crime: consensus view, conflict view and interactionist view. .
Looking at the consensus view, which stems from the sociological theories of Shepherd (1981) we can see that it defines crime as how society functions as an integrated structure, the stability of which is dependent on the consensus or agreement of all its members, therefore rules, values and norms are respected by all. .
The conflict view, by comparison, is the direct opposite of the consensus view because it argues that society is a collection of diverse groups, not one integrated structure. This theory claims that within society there are different groups of people who are in conflict with each other because of the disparate distribution of wealth and power which leads to the promotion of crime. .
The interactionist view is based on a number of assumptions which fall between the two previously discussed theories because it maintains that there is no moral right or wrong, but rather changes in moral standards which affect the legal constraints of society. .
As seen in these three views, crime can be defined in a multitude of ways depending on individual perspectives/society/cultures/times etc. One thing most psychologists agree upon is the belief that before an actual crime occurs it has to be committed - so without an action there is no crime. The Oxford Dictionary (2011) states crime is "an act that is illegal and can be punishable by law".