Topic 3 - Marxism, class and crime

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Marxism, class + crime

Agree w/ labelling theorists law is enforced disproportionately against w/c, official crime stats can't be taken at face value. Criticise labelling theory for failing to examine wider structure of capitalism w/in which law making, law enforcement + offending take place.

Structure of capitalist society explains crime. View of crime 3 elementsL
 - criminogenic capitalism
 - state + law making
 - ideological functions of crime + law

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Criminogenic capitalism

Capitalism is criminogenic - causes crime by nature. Capitalism based on exploitation of w/c. Damaging to w/c, may give rise to crime:
 - poverty may mean crime is only way w/c can survive
 - crime may be only way can obtain consumer goods encouraged by capitalist advertising, resulting in utilitarian crimes eg theft
 - alienation + lack of control over lives may -> frustration + aggression, -> non-utilitarian crimes eg violence + vandalism

Crime not confined to w/c. Comp among capitalists, while profit motive encourages mentality of green + self-interest. Need to win at all costs or go out of business, desire for self-enrichment, encourages capitalists to commit white collar + corp crimes eg tax evasion.

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State + law making

See law making + enforcement as only serving capitalist interests. Chambliss (1975) - laws to protect private property cornerstone of capitalist economy. 

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S + LM: Selective enforcement

Agree w/ labelling theorists that although all classes commit crime, when comes to application of law by CJS, there's selective enforcement. Powerless groups eg w/c + ethnic minorities criminalised, police + courts tend to ignore crimes of powerful.

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Ideological functions of crime + law

Laws occasionally passed that appear to be for benefit of w/c rather than capitalism, eg workplace health + safety laws. Pearce (1976) argues these laws benefit r/c too eg keeping workers fit for work. By giving capitalism 'caring' face, laws create false consciousness among workers. 

Laws not rigorously enforced. B/c state enforces law selectively, crime appears to be largely w/c phenomenon. Divides w/c by encouraging workers to blame criminals in midst for problems, rather than capitalism.

Media + some criminologists portray criminals as disturbed - conceal fact nature of capitalism makes people criminals.

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Evaluation of Marxism

Largely ignores relationship b/ween crime + non-class inequalities eg ethnicity + gender.

Too deterministic, over-predicts amount of crime in w/c - not all poor people commit crime.

Left realists argue M ignores intra-class crimes eg burglary, cause great harm to victims.

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