Marxism and Deviance

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Deviance ­ A Marxist perspective
William Chambliss, Frank Pearce nad Loreen Sneider can all be seen to apply a Marxist
methodoligcal approach to the study of deviance. Being classical Marxists they largely see
crime emerging as a result of the relationship between the ruling and subject classes, and
they have tended to focus more heavily of the role of the stte and the capitalist interests that
they believe influence the way that it handles crime and deviance, who it criminalises and
who it does not and the reasons for doing so. The explain the following laws by the working
class as an aspect of their false classs consciousness and therefore believe that when the
working class becomes a `class for itself' then this obedience to laws which are ultimately
detrimental to them will falter.
Who breaks the law? Who gets caught?
Marxist criminologists have argued that the popular portrayal of crime as predominatly
perpetrated by the ruling class that it is in fact prevalent at all layers of the class system,
however the motives for commiting crimes may vary between classes. Sneider claims that
corporate crime, a category that has often been ignored by other socioologists is a much
greater problem to society than street level crime such as ddrug dealing and mugging.
Crimes such as the flouting of labour laws which can lead to the deaths of workers can
cause much greater harm however they are unlikely to be dealt with by the state and almost
universally effect working class people (whereas street violence can affect anyone who
happens to be on a particular street at a particular time regardless of their class). Corporate
crimes also point to a contradiction within the capitalist system because despite the
likelihood of individual capitalists beign able to get very rich from corporate crimes it causes
vast losses to the overall economy. She claimed that the annual reported losses due to street
crime in the US were around $4bn however corporate crime may be up to twenty times
greater than that. She highlighted the case in which 312 loans companies in the US had been
systematically plagued by practices such as insider dealing and manipulayion of accounting
figures which led to them having to be bailed out at a minimum cost of $325bn (meaning that
every household in the USA had to pay around $5000) due to being unable to clear their
debts. Despite such enormous costs there is very little chance that a person involved in such
actions will be convicted or even prosecuted as such corporations are able to use their
capital to pressure for more lax treatment.
Who makes the law, who benefits?
According to Marxists the vast majority of the laws of the state are made in favour of
capital, and the large amount of laws that deal with private property have been pointed to as
evidence for this. Chambliss argues that in a feudal society these types of laws were
unnecessary given that immovable property, i.e. land was the major source of wealth
however as we shifted to a captialsit economy and capital become much more mobile due to

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Sneider (1993) highlights the reluctance of states to pass laws regulating the free flow
of the economy which from the perspectives of capitalists curtails their possibilities for
greater levels of accumulation.…read more

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American Dream, especially for those at the bottom of the
income ladder there develops a strong `dogeatdog' ethos. America is more likely to have
these forms of crime because they have a less substantial welfare system that many other
advanced capitalist societies such as Britain and the rest of Europe, so there may not be
legitimate means for people to be able to maintain a basic nutritional standard.
Law enforcement operates in a selective manner that ultimately serves the interests of the
capitalist class.…read more


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