Assess the usefulness of Marxist theories of crime and deviance

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  • Created by: khhmc98
  • Created on: 02-02-16 18:59

Marxist theories of crime are conflict approaches, as opposed to the consensus approaches of the functionalist based theories of Merton and the subcultural theorists. However, Marxists do believe that people's behaviour is moulded by the social structure, but this structure is based on conflict between he social classes, with social inequality being the driving force behind crime.

Gordon (1971) came up with the idea of criminogenic capitalism which is the theory that crime is inevitable in a capitalist society, because capitalism is criminogenic; by its very nature it causes crime. It's based on the exploitation of the working class, and suggests that poverty may mean that crime is the only way for the working class to survive, this explains theft for survival (Merton's strain theory). Crime might be the only way to obtain consumer goods encouraged by capitalism,for example people see big cars on  television all the time and desire it, this leads to utilitarian crime. The profit encourages a mentality of greed, and the need to win at all costs along with this encourages white collar and corporate crimes e.g. tax evasion. However, they over-emphasise property crime, and don't have much to say about non-property offences like ****, domestic violence and murder (often referred to as non-utilitarian crimes). Despite this, Marxist theories are still useful in helping out understanding of utilitarian crimes.

Chambliss (1975) argued that the law reflects ruling class ideology: Laws are not an expression of value consensus, as functionalists contend, but instruments of the ruling class, and they reflect the values and beliefs found in ruling class ideology. Acts are defined as criminal only when it's in the interest of the ruling class to define them as such. This means crime and deviance is constructed by the ruling class when they question the exploitation made by those who rule, for…


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