Marxist theories - crime and deviance

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  • Created by: maxward
  • Created on: 10-04-16 12:48

Traditional Marxism

Marxism is a structural theory: society is a structure whose capitalist economic base determines the superstructure. For traditional Marxists, the structure of capitalism explains crime. 

Criminogenic capitalism

Crime is inevitable in capitalism, because capitalism is criminogenic - its very nature causes crime. 

Working-class crime Capitalism is based on the exploitation of the working class for profit. As a result: 

- Poverty may mean crime is the only way some people can survive. 

- Crime may be the only way of obtaining consumer goods encouraged by capitalist advertising. 

- Alienation may cause frustration and aggression, leading to non-utilitarian crimes, e.g. violence, vandalism. 

Evaluation - Marxism is too determenistic and over-predicts working-class crime: not all poor people commit crime.

Ruling-class crime Capitlism is a win-at-all-costs system of competition, while the profit motive encourages greed. This encourages capitalists to commit corporate crimes, e.g. tax evasion, breaking health and safety laws.

The state and law making 

Marxists see law making and enforcement as serving the interests of the capitalist class. Chambliss (1975) argues that laws to protect private property are the basis of the capitalist economy.

The ruling class also have the power to prevent the introduction of laws harmful to their interests. Few laws challenge the unequal distribution of wealth.

Selective enforcement 

While all classes commit crime, there is selective enforcement of the law. 

- Reiman (2001) shows that crimes


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