Individualist and collectivist approaches

Individualist and collectivist approaches to crime and punishment.


Individualists tend to focus on personal weakness as the reason a crime is committed. If someone chooses to offend, that is their responsibility and if caught, they should suffer the consequences. Individualists believe that if punishments were stronger and the police and courts had more powers, there would be less crime.


Collectivists feel society is unequal and some people are at a greater risk of being influenced by criminal behaviour, often through the actions of parents or friends.

In order to tackle crime, collectivists feel that social conditions which create the catalyst for crime need to be addressed. This could be through better housing, improved employment opportunities and a more equal society to make crime less of an attraction. If people are in work and are content with life they will be less likely to break the law.

Government responses

Most recent governments at a UK and Scottish level see merit in both the individualist and collectivist beliefs and accept that there are underlying causes of crime. But individuals also need to accept responsibility for their actions.

It is the government's job to tackle crime, both its causes and the offenders. Former Prime Minister David Cameron said in 2012 that the government had to think hard about dealing with the causes of crime not just the results of crime.