Neo-Marxism: Critical Criminology

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  • Created on: 19-05-15 17:48

Neo-Marxism - Critical Criminology..

·         Neo-Marxists are sociologists who have been influenced by many of the ideas put forward by traditional Marxism, but they combine these with ideas to fit Marxism into current society as there has been no evolution like Marx predicted.

CHOICE - They insist that criminals choose to break the law. They stress that crimes are often conscious or deliberate acts with political motives 
           E.g. Women's Movement, Black Power Movement and Gay Rights Movement

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Taylor et al

Taylor et al agree with traditional Marxists that:
     -  Capitalist society is based on exploitation and class conflict and characterised by extreme inequalities of wealth and power.
- The state makes and enforces laws in the interests of the capitalist class and criminalises members of the working class.
- Capitalism should be replaced by a classless society which would reduce the extent of crime or even rid society of crime entirely.
- However, the views of Taylor et al also differ significantly from those of traditional Marxists.

  - Taylor et al argue that traditional Marxism is deterministic. They reject theories that claim crime is caused by external factors such as subcultures.
  - He takes a more voluntaristic view. They see crime as meaningful action and a conscious choice by the actor. They argue that crime often has a political motive, e.g. redistribution of wealth - Robin Hood.  Criminals are not passive puppets whose behaviour is shaped by the nature of capitalism: they are deliberately striving to change society.
 - Taylor et al also emphasise the importance of individual liberty and diversity. They argue that individuals should not be labelled deviant just because they are differenty- instead, they should be free to live their lives as they wish.

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Fully social theory of Deviance..

Taylor et al aim to create a ‘fully social theory of deviance’- a comprehensive understanding of crime and deviance that would help to change society for the better. Combines: Traditional Marxist views on the unequal distribution of wealth and the power to enforce the law  and Ideas from interactionism and labelling theory of  and society the meaning of the deviant act for the actor and what effect this has on the individual.

1. The wider origins of the deivant act- need to locate the deviant act within the wider social system - in the unequal distribution of wealth and power in capitalist society. 
2.  The immediate origins of the deviant act- the particular context in which the individual decides to commit the act. e.g. what are they getting? is it financial gain or just for fun?
3. The act itself and its meaning for the actor- e.g. was it a form of rebellion/frustration against capitalism. 
4. The immediate origins of social reaction- the reactions of those around the deviant e.g. police and community, to discovering the deviance.
5.   The wider origins of social reaction in the structure of capitalist society- who has the power to define actions as deviant and why some acts are treated more harshly than others.
6. The effect of labelling on the deviant’s future actions- e.g. why does labelling lead to deviance amplification in some cases but not others?
7. The nature of the deviant process as a whole - all processes must be put together to form a 'fully social theory of deviance'.

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Example - Mugging 1970's..

Hall et al (1979) focused on issue of mugging in the 1970's.

This was a period of considerable political unrest in Britain - the wider origins of the act.
..The newspapers were dominated by strikes, inner-city unrest and escalating violence in Northern Ireland. - Immediate origins of deviant act.
..The media and politicians seized on the issue of mugging - Actual act.
..Police provided information to the press of violent street robberies of a particular kind and this resulted in the lurid media images of badly beaten old women. - Immediate origins of social reaction.
Black youths were frequently subjected to 'stop and search' procedures in the street - Wider origins of deviant reactions (labelling)
..This resulted in their general alienation of a significant proportion of the black community, - Outcomes of social reaction on deviants further action.

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Evaluation of Neo-Marxism..

·        - Feminists criticise it for being ‘gender blind’, focusing excessively on male criminality and at the expense of female criminality.

·        -  Left realists criticise Neo-Marxists in two ways; 1. Firstly, critical criminology romanticises working-class criminals as ‘Robin Hoods’ who are fighting capitalism by re-distributing wealth. However in reality these criminals simply prey on the poor.
2. Secondly Taylor et al do not take such crime seriously and they ignore its effects on working-class victims.

·        -  Burke (2005) argues that critical criminology is both too general to explain crime and too idealistic to be useful in tackling crime. However, Stuart Hall et al have applied Taylor et al’s approach to explain the moral panic over mugging in the 1970s.

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Antonio Gramsci

Gramsci (1891-1937) is a Neo-Marxist.
He suggests that the ownership of the means of production was not enough to guarantee a ruling class would monopolise power in society.

In order to maintain its hegemony (dominance) the ruling class must make concessions to win the support of the people e.g. employment rights, benefits. It cannot rely on false class consciousness as people are aware of their exploitation.  To rule they need to create a power bloc by making alliances e.g. middle class and therefore must make these compromises.

Gramsci also differed from Marx in placing greater emphasis on the division within classes e.g. the differing interests of industrail and agricultural workers. 

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