Marxist Explanations of Crime


Marxist Explanations of Crime

Marxist Explanations of Crime

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Marxist Explanations of Crime

Marxists use the features of capitalist society to explain crime & the workings of the Criminal Justice System by:  

  • Criminogenic Capitalism - Crime is inevitable in capitalist society because opportunity breeds crime

Capitalism causes crime = it breeds greed, selfishness & competition. Crime is a normal outcome (Bonger) 

The State and the Law - Law making & law enforcement serves the interenst of the rulling class & protect the rich and powerful. 

Ideological Functions - Some laws give illusion of benefiting the W/C; in reality, they support the growth of capitalism instead. 

Crime is rational response amongst all social classes. WC = live in poverty (utillitarian) & feel alienated/frustrated (riots). MC = relative deprivation (white collar/corperate) (Gordon) 

- Explains relationship between crime and capitalism 

X Too determanistic = not all poor people commit crime; not all capitalist societies have high crime rates

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Corporate, White Collar & Occupational

  • Corporate Crime: By an employee or an organisation
  • White Collar Crime: By a person of status in course of their occupation
  • Occupational Crime: By an employee for their own personal gain and often against company.

Types of Corporate Crime:

  • Financial crime (fraud) 
  • Crimes against consumers (Advertising)
  • Crimes against employers (Harrassment) 
  • Crimes against the environment (Waste dumping) 
  • State Corporate crime (State knows there's widespread crime, doesn't do anything about it) 

Corperate Crime is invisible because: 

  • Limited media coverage 
  • Lack of police resources
  • Corporate crime is complex - law enforcers understaffed
  • CC is delabelled 
  • CC is under reported
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Explanations of Corporate Crime 1

  • Marxist - Criminogenic capitalism has encourages growith of corporate subcultures

- Corporate subcultures emphasise pursuit of wealth, profit & taking of financial risks

- 'Selective law enforcement' means these crimes of the powerful go unoticed. 

  • Strain Theory - Merton might suggest as many MC are successful in terms of these goals, may still have a sense of relative deprivation (may want even more than tehy can achieve by legitimate approved means) 

- Corporate crimes also seen as forms of innovation

  • Control Theory - Suggests these individuals who carry out CC are driven by socialisation into & conforming to self-seeking management cultures. 

- Welken suggests some are successful, people who have material goods associated with success may have got into financial difficulties trying to maintain lifestyle. 

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Explanations of Corporate Crime 2

  • Differential Association - Sutherland suggests that if people associate with others who support illegal activities more likely to commit crime. 

- The aggressive management in bussiness circles may generate a favourable climate for corporate cirme driven by loyalty to the firm

  • Labelling Theory - Nelken suggests the offenses are more likely to escape labelling as 'criminal' as tehy are similar to normal business practice. 

- Points out powerful individuals / corporations will employ accountants / lawyers to develop their techniques of neutralization to redefine their crimes as non criminal. 

  • Edgework - Postmodornists Katz and Lyng suggest crime can be seductive / pleasurable experience. Thrill seeking/risk taking may be motivations for crime rather than material gain

- Nelken - Excitement for young men of living life in fast lane & making hard choces in high risk situations is as important as the money benifits themselves. 

- Explains social constructions of OCS

X - Most MC individuals do not commit crime; many non capitalist countries have high corporate crime

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Law Creation

  • Law making law enforcements serves the interest of the rulling class and protects the rich and powerful E.g, bedroom tax VS mansion tax
  • Sneeder - Rulling class especially reluctant to pass laws that will threatn their profitability or regulate their bussiness 
  • Chambliss - The intro of British Law into East African Colonies served the needs of the rulling class
  • British introduced a tax on local people; non payment of which was a punishable crime
  • Local people worked at tea/coffe plantations, serving the interests of the capitalist plantaion workers
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Ideological Function

Some laws (eg, health & safety legislation) appear to be for the benifit of WC rather than capitalism. Marxists believe this is a myth

  • Pearce - Such laws give capitalism a 'caring face and created false conciousness among workers
  • Health and safety laws benigit rulling class by keeping workers fit for labour
  • The media can helo enhance ideological function of the law
  • Media portrays criminals as disturbed individuals, thus diverting attention away from real cause - capitalism 
  • The WC begin to blame each other rather than capitalism for crime. 

Shows how social institutions work together as ISAs

X - CJS does sometimes act against the rich and powerful

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Evaluation of Marxism

  • Explains the relationship between crime and capitalism; for example, criminiogenic capitalism and poverty
  • Links law making and enforcement with the interests of the capitalist class, this raises questions about wheather the OCS is accurate
  • It ignores the relationship between crime and non class inequalities (ethnicity and gender); therefore it is one dimentional 
  • The Criminal Justice System does sometimes act against the interests of the rulling class; therefore, suggestions that the law acts only in the interest of hte rulling class are discredited 
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Neo-Marxist Explanations of Crime

Neo-Marxist Explanations of Crime

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Taylor, Walton & Young - New Criminology

  • Agree with Marxism - although argue it is too determanistic (Voluntarism) 
  • Aimed to create a 'Fully social theory of deviance' 
  • Combines marxist (capitalist structure of society) and interactionalist (influence of victim, offender, media and and CJS) ideas

Fully social theory of deviance:

  • Wider and immediate origins of the acts + the wider and immediate origins of societl reactions + effects of labelling

Stuart Hall: 'Black Muggings' 

  • 1970's crime stats reported sharp increase in muggings committed by black men
  • Neo Marxists attempted to explain theis by considering wider and immediate causes and consequenses

Considers role of police, media and CJS 

X - Feminists regard Marxists/ Neo Marxists explanations as Malestream (focus on male criminality) 

X - Left Realists criticise Neo Marxists explanations forr romanticising crime

X - Some crimes have no political motive

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Marxists Subcultural Theories of Crime

  • Brake - Skinheads was white, WC male youth subculture - 1960's in England - Shaved heads, Doc Martins

What did they do?

  • Violence + gangs
  • Promote racism and neo-nazism 

Why did they do it?

  • Political divide between MC & WC mods
  • Resistance against government 

Marxist Subcultural Theory (MST):

  • Strand of thought developed from marxism, explained the existance of 'deviant' subcultures amongst the WC
  • MST can be used to explain actions of Skinheads in 1960's - demonstates resistance through clothing, language & behaviour 

Insight into 'meanings' of group deviance

X - Bias researchers 

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