Marxist views on Crime and Deviance.

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Marxist explanations of Crime and Deviance- Unit Guide notes
Marxist explanations of Crime and Deviance
Marxists argue that the nature and organisation of capitalism creates the potential for criminal
behaviour, it is illustrated in two ways:
David Gordon argues that capitalism is characterised by class inequalities in the distribution
of e.g. wealth and income, poverty, unemployment and homelessness. He suggest that most
working-class crime is a realistic and coherent response to these inequalities.
Gordon argues that considering the nature of capitalism, we should not ask `why the
working-class commit crime' but instead `why don't they commit more crime'.
Secondly, Gordon argues that the ideology of capitalism encourages criminal behaviour in
all social class; for instance values such as competition, materialism and consumerism as well
as the profit motive encourage a culture of greed and self-interest.
The need to win at all costs or go out of business, as well as the desire for self-enrichment,
encourages capitalists to commit white-collar and corporate crimes such as tax evasion.
Capitalism also encourages a `culture of envy' among poorer sections of society, which may
also encourage a criminal reaction.
The law as ideology and social control
Marxists, such as Louis Althusser argue that the law is an ideological state apparatus, which
functions in the interests of the capitalist class to maintain and legitimate class inequality in the
following ways:
It is concerned mainly with protecting the major priorities of capitalism- wealth, private
property and profit. Lauren Snider notes that the capitalist state is reluctant to pass laws
that regulate the activities of business or threaten their profitability.
Box notes that the powerful kill, injure, maim and steal from ordinary members of society but
these killings, injuries and thefts are often not covered by the law. For example, a worker's
death due to the employer violations of health and safety laws is a civil rather than criminal
offence.
Law enforcement is selective and tends to favour the rich and powerful. For example, social
security fraud, largely committed by the poor, inevitably attracts prosecution and often
prison. Yet tax fraudsters, who are usually wealthy and powerful individuals rather than
ordinary taxpayers rarely get taken to court.
Jeffrey Reiman argues that the more likely a crime is to be committed by higher-class
people, the less likely it is to be treated as a criminal offence. Particularly in white-collar and
corporate crimes are under-policed and under-punished.
White-collar and corporate crime
Hazel Croall defines white-collar crime as crime committed in the course of legitimate
employment, which involves the abuse of an occupational role.
Croall suggests fraud, accounting finances, tax evasion, insider dealing and computer crime
as being typical white-collar crimes.
Croall notes that people who own the means of production or who manage them have great
opportunities than most to make large sums of money from crime.
Marxists argue that capitalism is `criminologenic' meaning it is a natural outcome of
capitalist practices and values.
Croall notes that companies also commit crimes, known as corporate crimes. Examples are:
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Marxist explanations of Crime and Deviance- Unit Guide notes
Type of crime Example
Crimes Manufacturing and selling dangerous goods or foods; not ensuring the safety of
against passengers.
consumers
Crimes In the UK, between 1965 and 1995, 25, 000 people were killed in the
against workplace; about 70% of these deaths were due to employer violation of
employees health and safety laws.…read more

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Marxist explanations of Crime and Deviance- Unit Guide notes
Neo-Marxist explanations of crime and deviance- the `New Criminology'
Neo-Marxists are sociologists who have been influenced by many of the ideas of traditional
Marxism, which they combine with ideas from other approaches such as labelling theory.
The `New Criminology' of Ian Taylor, Paul Walton and Jock Young is the well-known
example of Neo-Marxism.…read more

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Marxist explanations of Crime and Deviance- Unit Guide notes
Evaluation of the `New Criminology'
Left Realists have criticised the new criminology for over-romanticising working-class
criminals as `Robin Hoods' who are fighting capitalism by stealing from the rich and giving to
the poor.
The reality of crime is that most victims of working-class and black crime are themselves
working class and black. It is suggested that Taylor et al do not take the effects of this type
of crime on working-class victims seriously.…read more

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Marxist explanations of Crime and Deviance- Unit Guide notes
Unit Guide
Glossary of sociologists- Marxism
David Gordon argues that capitalism is characterised by class inequalities in the distribution
of e.g. wealth and income, poverty, unemployment and homelessness. He suggest that most
working-class crime is a realistic and coherent response to these inequalities.
Gordon argues that considering the nature of capitalism, we should not ask `why the
working-class commit crime' but instead `why don't they commit more crime'.…read more

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