Marxism, class and crime

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  • Marxism, class and crime
    • Marxists argue the law is enforced disproportionately against the working classes
    • Marxists explanations of crime come from their view of capitalist society
    • According to Marxists, the criminal justice system's function is to serve the needs of the ruling classes just like the other social institutions
    • Three main elements of crime
      • Criminogenic capitalism
        • Marxists believe that crime is inevitable within a capitalist society
        • Capitalism by its very nature causes crime
        • Because capitalism exploits the working class it is particularly damaging to this class group and may cause crime because:
          • Poverty may drive the working class to crime as it is the only way to survive
          • Crime may be the only way to consume certain products encouraged by capitalist advertising
          • Alienation may lead to violence and vandalism
        • Marxists see that crime isn't confined to the working classes but also among capitalists due to ruthless competition
        • The need to win at all costs encourages corporate and white collar crime
          • David Gordon argues that crime is a rational response to capitalism and can be found in all social classes
      • The state and law making
        • Marxists see law making as reflecting the interests of the ruling class
        • Chambliss argues that laws to protect private property are the cornerstone of the capitalist economy
        • The ruling class also possess the power to prevent the introduction of laws that would threaten their interests
        • Marxists argue that powerless groups such as wc and ethnic minorities are criminalised and that the CJS ignore the crimes of the powerful
      • Ideological functions of crime and law
        • According to Marxist theory, the law, crime and criminals also play an ideological function for a capitalist society
        • Laws occasionally are passed that appear to support working class rights
        • Pearce argues that these laws also benefit the ruling class by keeping workers fit to work
        • The working class are encouraged to blame criminals for their problems, rather than capitalsim
    • Neo-marxism and crime
      • Critical criminology
        • Taylor, Walton and Young argue that marxism is deterministic; where it views the workers driven to commit crime out of economic necessity, they disagree with this explanation
        • They argue a 'voluntaristic view'
        • They see crime as a meaningful action and a conscious choice by the actor. Criminals are consciously attempting to change society with their criminal act
        • Evaluation
          • Feminists criticise it for being 'gender-blind'
          • Romanticises working class criminals as people who fight capitalism
          • Ignore the effects of crime on its wc victims
      • A fully social theory of deviance
        • Taylor et al aim to create a 'fully social theory of deviance'. A comprehensive understanding of crime and deviance that would help to change society for the better
        • This theory has two main sources
          • Marxist ideas about the inequality of wealth and power. Therefore, who has the power to make and enforce laws
          • Ideas taken from interactionism and labelling, such as societal reactions to crime and the deviant label
        • A complete theory of deviance needs to unite six factors
          • The wider origins of the deviant act within a capitalist society (unequal distribution of wealth)
          • The immediate origins of the deviant act (the context in which the person decides to commit the act)
          • The act itself (the meaning for the individual)
          • The immediate origins of social reaction (the reactions to the deviant from those around them)
          • The wider origins of social reaction (who has the power to define actions as deviant?)
          • The effects of labelling (on future actions- why does labelling lead to deviance amplification?)


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