Marxist theories

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  • Marxist theories
    • Traditional Marxism
      • The structure of capitalism explains crime.
      • Crime is inevitable in capitalism, because capitalism is criminogenic - its very ature causes crime.
      • W/c crime - capitalism is based on the exploitation of the w/c for profit.
      • As a result, poverty may mean crime is the only way some can survive.
      • Crime may be the only way to get consumer goods encouraged by capitalist advertising, resulting in utilitarian crimes e.g. theft.
      • Alienation may cause frustration and aggression, leading to non-utilitarian crimes e.g. violence.
      • Marxism is too deterministic and over-predicts w/c crime: not all poor people commit crime, despite poverty and alienation. Also, not all capitalist societies have high crime ates e.g. Japan.
      • R/c crime - profit motive encourages greed. Encourages capitalists to commit corporate crimes e.g. tax evasion, breaking health and safety laws.
      • Gordon - argues that crime is a rational response to capitalism and thus is found in all classes.
      • Marxists see law making and enforcement as serving the interests of the capitalist class.
      • Cambliss - argues that laws to protect private property are the basis of the capitalist economy.
      • R/c also have the power to prevent laws harmful to their interests - few laws challenge the unequal distribution of wealth.
      • Reiman - shows that crimes of the powerful are much less likely to be treated as criminal offences and prosecuted.
      • Carson - 200 firms, found all had broken health and safety laws, only 1.5% were prosecuted.
      • Higher rate of prosecutions for the crimes of the poor.
      • Some laws benefit workers e.g. health and safety. Pearce - argues that these also benefit capitalism, as they are giving a 'caring' face, creating false consciousness.
      • State enforces the law selectively, therefore crime appears to be largely w/c. it encourages workers to blame w/c criminals for their problems rather than capitalism.
      • Selective enforcement distorts crime statistics as crime is appeared to be largely w/c shifting the attention off r/c crime.
      • Slapper & Tombs - apple this traditional Marxist view to corporate crime, which the argue is under-policed and rarely prosecuted. This encourages companies to use crime as a means of making profit.
      • Others criticise traditional Marxism for largely ignoring non-property crime and deviance.
    • Neo-marxism: critical criminology
      • Taylor, Walton & Young - agree that capitalism is based on exploitation and inequality; the state makes and enforces laws in the interests of capitalism and criminalises the w/c; there should be a classless society, which would reduce crime.
      • But they criticise that it's deterministic as it sees workers as driven to commit crime out of economic necessity.
      • Critical criminology has influenced other sociologists e.g. Hall et al - use a combination of Marxism and labelling theory to explain how the moral panic over mugging in the 70s served capitalist interests.
      • Taylor et al take a more voluntaristic view, as crime is a conscious choice and criminals are deliberately struggling to change society.
      • Taylor et al aim to create a 'fully social theory of deviance' that would help change society for the better. It will have two main sources.
        • Traditional Marxist ideas about the unequal distribution of wealth and who has the power to make and enforce the law.
        • Labelling theory's ideas about the meaning of the deviant act for the actor, societal reactions to it, and the effects.
      • Feminists criticise both traditional and Neo-Marxist approaches for being 'gender-blind'.
      • Left realists criticise Neo-Marxists for romanticising w/c criminals as 'Robin Hoods' fighting capitalism.
    • Marxism is a structural theory: society is a structure whose capitalist economic base determines the superstructure i.e. all other institutions including the state and criminal system.


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