Marxist Theories of Crime and Deviance

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Crime Patterns - Official Criminal Statistics

  • OCS show a concentration of criminal activity within the WC and an absence of criminal behaviour among the MC and UC.
  • OCS show the most crime is committed by the WC.
  • WC tend to be committed for street crimes such as burglary.
  • MC tend to be committed for corporate crimes such as fraud.
  • Distribution of deviant activity isn't class concentrated but targeting for policing is.
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TM - Criminogenic Capitalism.

  • Crime is inevitable as capitalism is criminogenic by the nature of it crime is created.
  • Capitalism is based on exploiting workers for a profit.

Utilitarian Crimes

  • Gordon 1976 - Capitalist values such as wealth can cause utilitarian crimes such as theft.
  • Low wages mean workers experience poverty.
  • Utilitarian crimes may be the only way of obtaining consumer goods.


  • **** can be influenced by capitalism.
  • Marxist Feminists - lack of power in the work place causes ****.
  • To reclaim power they excert sexual power over women out of the work place.


  • Gordon - useful for offering a critique of strain theory. Wealth and materialism not mainstream values.
  • Marxist Feminists - useful  for recognising capitalism can cause ****.
  • However capitalism can't cause all crime and ignores that criminal behaviour can stem from ethnic inequalities such as racism. - Hate crimes.
  • Use Law creation as criticism and link to next point.
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TM - Law creation

  • Why the WC appear on OCS.
  • Law creation has a ruling class bias. - RC has the power though law creation to define WC behaviour as criminal.
  • Laws were implemented to protect wealth, property and possessions.

William Chambliss 1975

  • Laws to protect the WC are the cornerstone of the capitalist economy.
  • e.g Introduction of English law in East African colonies.
  • At the time the economy was not a money economy. English introducted Tax so the popultion had to work for them to pay the tax. Therefore served the needs of capitalist plantation owners.


  • Chambliss - useful as he recognises how the law can be manipulated to serve the RC.
  • However - some laws are to protect the WC such as health and safety laws.
  • Use ideological functions to criticise and link to next point.
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TM - Ideological functions of the law

  • Some laws are passed which seem to benefit the WC such as health and safety laws.

Frank Pearce 1976

  • These laws benefit the RC.
  • They keep workers fit for work.
  • Give capitalism a caring face an creates a false consciousness.
  • Trick worker into thinking the system care about their welfare.
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TM - Law enforcement and White coller crime

  • All classes committ crime but there is selective enforcement.

Reiman 2001

  • The rich ger ticher and the poor get poorer
  • The more likely a crime is committed by the RC the more likely it won't be treated as a criminal offence.
  • Disproportionately high prosecution rate for street crimes
  • Tax evasion and health and safety violations are forgiven by the justice system.

Carson 1971

  • Sample of 200 firms.
  • All had broken health and safety laws.
  • 1.5% prosecuted.
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TM - Types of white coller crime

1. Occupational crimes

  •  Committed by individuals to benefit themselves.
  • Joyte De Laurey 2005 - Case Study.
  • Embezzled millions from Goldman Sachs. De Laurey bought 11 UK properties, £300,000 worth of cartier jewellry.
  • 7 year prison sentence.

2. Corporate crimes

  • Committed by groups of employees working to benefit the organisation.
  • Box - Harm caused to consumers - Mechanical defects in the Ford Pino led to 900 deaths. Ford was aware of the defect.
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TM - Harm caused and Evaluation

Harm Caused

  • TM interested in harm caused against consumers.
  • Hughes and Langan 2001 - 1965 - Mid 90's, 25,000 people were killed at work. 70% of which were due to breech of health and safety legislation. 


  • Box,Hughes and Langan - useful - corporate crime has widespread effects
  • Reiman and Carson - useful - White coller crimes go under investigated
  • However - Criminal justice system goes against capitalist classes. Prosecutions of corporate crime do occur.
  • Left Realists - Marxism ignores intra-class crimes
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Evaluation of TM


  • Understand crime can be committed by the WC and MC.
  • What motivates a criminal. - Deterministic.


  • Neo-Marxist & Humanists - deterministic view - excludes free will and choice - not all WC members commit crimes due to poverty and alienaton.
  • Neo-Marxist - Crime stems from class inequalities - ignores ethnic inequalities
  • Use functionalist
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NM - Critical Criminology

Taylor, Walton and Young

  • Criminal behaviour is volunteristic - free will
  • People commit crimes to change society
  • Individuals are not controlled by society.
  • Crime is a symbol against capitalism


  • Recognise free will.
  • Use TM to criticise.
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NM - Black Criminality as a Form of Political Resi


  • Ethnic minority crime is a form of political resistance against a racist society
  • Most Blacks and Asians origionate from former colonies - learnt to resist oppression such as slavery through riots and demonstrations.
  • Political struggle was criminalised by the state

Race riots

  • Rodney King
  • 2011 - Mark Duggen


  • Useful - Riots are an attempt at ridding society of institutional racism
  • However - Left Realist Lea and Young - Real victims of black criminality is the afro-caribbeans themselves - ignores intra-ethnic crimes.
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Marxist subcultural theory

NM - Stuart Hall

  • Subcultures form as a way of resistance to the inequalities within the capitalist system.
  • Difficulty finding work - join subcultures with other disadvataged youths.
  • Dress code and music set them apart from the rest of society.
  • Music and style are a symbolismn of resistance


  • God save the queen - Sex Pistols
  • White Riot - The Clash


  • Useful - style and music as political resistance
  • However - Feminists - ignoring that girls join subcultures e.g The Slits a female punk band
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LR - Black Criminality

Lea and Young

  • Critical of Hall and Gilroy
  • Accept OCS
  • Relitive deprivation and marginalisation cause black criminality
  • Marginalisation - Feeling powerless due to police racism - oppressive stop and search so turn to non utilitarian crimes
  • Relative Deprivation - Economically deprived compared to people who surround them - commit utilitarian crimes in response to poverty and unemployment


  • Useful - police racism
  • Acknowledge discriminatory policing in relation to OCS
  • However - 90% of crimes are reported by the public so it is unlikely police actions were due to them being racist
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  • TM - Capitalism as criminogenic
  • TM - RC controls the state which makes the law
  • TM - Law performs ideological functions for capitalism
  • Critical Criminology - less deterministic
  • Gilroy - Black criminality as a form of political resistance
  • Left Realists - Critical of NM view on black criminality
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