3. Marxist theories

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  • Marxist theories
    • Traditional Marxism
      • Society's institutions function to support r/c ideas and values
      • Criminogenic capitalism
        • Crime is inevitable in capitalism because capitalism is criminogenic- by its very nature it causes crime
        • Exploitation of the w/c may give rise to crime because it may be the only way to survive, obtain consumer goods or gain control of their lives as a result of alienation
        • However, crime is not confined to the w/c
        • The 'dog-eat-dog' system of capitalism encourages white collar and corporate crime
        • GORDON
          • Crime is a rational response to the capitalist system amongst all classes
      • The state and law making
        • CHAMBLISS
          • Laws to protect private property are the cornerstones of the capitalist economy
        • The r/c also have the power to prevent the introduction of laws that would threaten their interests
        • SNIDER
          • The capitalist state is reluctant to pass laws that regulate the activities of businesses or threaten their profitability
        • Although all classes commit crime, the law is not fairly enforced. There is therefore selective enforcement of the law
        • The police and courts tend to ignore crimes of the powerful and penalise crimes of the w/c
      • Ideological functions of crime and law
        • Laws are occasionally passed that appear to be for the benefit of the w/c rather than for capitalism
        • PEARCE
          • Such laws often benefit the r/c as well. By giving capitalism a 'caring face' such laws also create a false consciousness among the w/c
        • Because the state enforces the law selectively, crime appears to be a largely w/c phenomenon
      • EVAL
        • Traditional Marxism offers a useful explanation of the relationship between crime and capitalist society
        • Ignores the relationship between crime and important non-class inequalities
        • Too deterministic
        • Not all capitalist societies have high crime rates (Japan, Switzerland)
        • The CJS does sometimes act against the interests of the r/c
        • Left Relaists argue that Marxism focuses largely on crimes of the powerful and ignores intra-class crimes (where both criminal and victim are w/c)
    • Neo-Marxism: critical criminology
      • TAYLOR ET AL
        • Taylor, Walton and Young are Neo-Marxists that agree with traditional marxists that:
          • Capitalist society is based on a class conflict
          • The state enforces laws that favour the r/c
          • Capitalism should be replaced by a classless communist, scoiety
        • However, their view, also called critical criminology, differs significantly from traditional Marxists views in some ways
        • They argue that traditional Marxism is deterministic and they reject other theories that claim crime is a result of other external factors
        • They take a more voluntaristic view (the idea that we have free will)
        • Criminals are not passive puppets
        • Individuals should not be labelled deviant just because they are different- instead they should be free to live their lives as they wish
        • They aim to create a 'fully social theory of deviance'. This theory would incorporate both traditional Marxist ideas as well as Interactionist and labelling theories
        • A complete theory needs to unite 6 aspects:
          • 1. The wider origins of the deviant act
          • 2. The immediate origins of the act
          • 3. The act itself
          • 4. The immediate origins of social reaction
          • 5. The wider origins of social reaction
          • 6. The effects of labelling
      • EVAL
        • Feminists: critical criminology is gender blind
        • Left Realists: this theory romantices w/c criminals as 'Robin Hoods' when really these criminals prey on the poor
        • Left Realists: They do not take some crimes seriously and they ignore their effects on w/c victims
        • HOPKINS-BURKE: its too general to explain crime and too idealistic to tackle crime


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