A2 Sociology: Marxist Theories of Crime

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Latifah Davis-Cole
Marxist Theories
Traditional Marxism:
Traditional Marxist sees society divided into two classes. Ruling capitalist class
(bourgeoisie) ­ who own the means of production.
The working class (proletariat) who are propertyless and are alienated by the ruling
class to produce profit.
Explain crime in three main elements: Criminogenic capitalism; The state and law
making; Ideological functions of crime and law
Criminogenic Capitalism
Crime is inevitable in capitalism because capitalism is Criminogenic ­ by its very nature
causes crime
Capitalism is based on the exploitation of the w/class
Particularly damaging to the w/class may give rise to crime becos:
Poverty may mean that crime is the only way the w/class can survive
Crime may be the only why they can obtain consumer goods, encouraged by
capitalism advertising which leads to utilitarian crime such as theft
Alienation and lack of control may lead to frustration and aggression
Capitalism is a `dog eat dog world' with competition btwn capitalists ­ greed and
Encourages capitalists to commit white-collar crimes such as tax invasion
David Gordon: Crime is a rational response, hence why it is found in ALL social
classes ­ even tho the official statistics make it to be a largely w/class
The State and Law Making
Marxists see law making and law enforcement as only serving the interests of the
capitalist class
The ruling class have the power to prevent the introduction of laws what would
threaten their interests
Selective Enforcement
o All classes commit crime, however when it comes to applying the law the criminal
justice system have selective enforcements.
o Powerless groups e.g. w/class, ethnic minorities are criminalised
o Police and courts ignore the crimes of the powerful
o Reimans: The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get prison ­ shows that the more
likely a crime is to be committed by higher-class people, the less likely it is to be

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Latifah Davis-Cole
treated a criminal offence. ­ The criminal justice system takes more forgiving view
towards higher class crimes.
Ideological Function of Crime and Law
o Laws are occasionally passed that appear to be for the benefit of the w/class rather
than capitalism. E.g.…read more

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Latifah Davis-Cole
Taylor et al argues that traditional Marxism is deterministic
They reject theories that claim crime is caused by external factors such as anomie,
subcultures of labelling
Taylor takes on a more voluntaristic view (idea that we have free will)
They see crime as a meaningful action and a conscious choice by the actor
Criminals are not passive puppets whose beh.…read more


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