Crime and Deviance Theme 2 - Marxism and Crime


Marxism and Crime

  • Deviance is the product of unequal power relations and general equality 
  • Crime is a result of offering society demeaning work with little sense of creativity
  • The superstructure serves the ruling class - the state passes laws which supports the ruling class' interests, wishes and ideologies 
  • Selective law enforcement - Criminal Justice System (CJS) polices and punishes the marginalised working class and not the wealthy (punishments depend on/vary according to the social class of the criminal)
  • People have inequal access to the law
  • Capitalism is crimogenic and encourages commodity fetishism (greed) 
  • David Gordon's 'dog eat dog' society argues that people look out for their own selfish interests over others because self-pursuit of profit is all that matters
  • Naomi Klein's 'shock doctrine' - recent growth of corporations such as Halliburton gain a big part of their revenue through providing weaponry. Therefore they encourage war which is allowed by society because they're shocked into being docile and conforming to these aggressive policies
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The Law Works in the Ruling Class' Interests

  • Laws are made by the state which represent the interests of the ruling class - this leads to selective law enforcement
  • Stuart Hall - moral panics over crimes of the working class divert attention away from upper class crime through the manipulation of values and pressure groups
  • Lauren Snider - the state is often reluctant to pass laws which regulate big businesses because this might threaten their profitability
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Selective Law Enforcement

  • David Gordon argues that selective law enforcement benefits the capitalist system in three ways:                                                                                                                                                                                             

1. By punishing individuals and making them responsible for their actions, we ignore the failures of the system that led to the conditions of poverty and inequality that led to that crime

2. Imprisonment of the working class lowers the opposition to the system

3. The focus on working class street crime diverts our attention away from middle class corporate crime 

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Capitalism is Crimogenic

  • Capitalism encourages individuals to be selfish
  • Capitalism encourages individuals to be materialistic consumers who aspire to unrealistic lifestyles through advertising in the media (links to Strain Theory)
  • Capitalism generates poverty and inequality, conditions which are associated with high levels of crime                                                                                                                                                                                            


  • Secularisation (decline of relgious beliefs)
  • Increased waste
  • Debt
  • Injuries/death
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  • It is economically deterministic - corporate crime is harsh and selfish but it is unclear how this filters down to the rest of society. For example, it is mainly working class youth who commit crime who aren't aware of corporate immorality, so it doesn't affect them
  • Inequality has increased under the New Labour government but crime has been falling, implying that there is no real link between inequality and crime - there are other variables involved
  • Crime still exists in communist societies so what's the solution to the problem?
  • The CJS does sometimes work against the ruling class with prosecutions of corporate criminals (e.g. Bernard Madoff)
  • Left Realists argue that Marxists focus too much on crimes of the powerful and ignore street crime which is what matters most for the working class                                                                                                                                         
  • However, Marxism does show the lack of insight the media brings to cirime
  • Explores a deeper cause for crime
  • Looks at more damaging crimes to society (white collar crime)
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