Outline and Evaluate Marxist Theories on Crime

Outline and Evaluate Marxist Theories on Crime

Outline and assess Marxist explanations of crime and deviance. In looking at the Marxist explanation of crime and deviance one must also look to the non-sociologist explanations and those of other different groups in order to come to an informed view of the subject. The non-sociologist definition of crime and deviance would be that deviance is uncommon behaviour, something that offends the morals or the majority of society, without being harmful or serious enough to be criminal. Whereas a criminal act is an act which causes harm to someone else enough to warrant a decision-maker passing a law which forbids the act.

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The Marxist theory in general splits society in half, the rich and the poor. With the poor being exploited by the rich. This theory appears to be the basis for all Marxist perspective including the Marxist explanations of crime and deviance. Karl Marx stated that crime was the product of poverty and the traditional Marxist view regarding the cause of crime amongst the working classes is competition and the desire to acquire wealth. The working class people want the ‘things’ that they see the middle classes with but they cant afford them so they resort to stealing.

The explanation of the cause of the majority of crime is given as the people fighting back against the oppression of a corrupt capitalist society. According to the Marxist movement Deviant behaviour is behaviour which if frowned upon by the wealthy and powerful possibly even considered to be threatening their way of life. Deviant people are considered to be victims of a repressive state. When deviant behaviour is found to be a threat the people in charge come up with a new law to change deviant to criminal, for example new age travellers who were a threat as they showed young people the option of a different way of life.

At first they were labelled as drug addicts and criminals, then in 1994 the criminal justice act was passed which contained several points specifically aimed at them. Proving the Marxist point that the rich when faced with a problem use their power to find a way round it without caring how they are affecting other peoples lives. The laws created by the bourgeoisie (middle class) were created to protect property owned by the bourgeoisie. However when the wealthy are caught in deviant behaviour it is much more accepted even excused they are rarely branded criminals.

In the opinion of the Marxists the difference between illegal and deviant depends on how threatening the act is to the ruling classes and their manipulation of values. For example if a young working class man from an inner city was involved in a street brawl which resulted in death this man could expect a heavy prison sentence. However if a factory worker died as a result of exposure to dangerous chemicals the worst sentence to be expected would be a heavy fine even if the management were aware of the risk beforehand.

Functionalist and New Right movement accept the non-sociologist definition of crime and deviance. However the New Right do believe the main causes of crime are poor upbringing, biological or genetical defects and that a number of illegal acts are not really harmful but are illegal because bureaucrats want to interfere in peoples lives. In other words the powerful groups are representing the interests of the working classes. This leans more towards the Marxist view that law is the reflection of the will of the powerful. 1st visit to Coursework. info? Welcome!

As a welcome gift, you are viewing the the complete version of this essay, to view other documents in full you will need to become a subscriber. The social constructionalists believe that deviant behaviour is only defined as such through the behaviour of other people. They consider the main cause of crime to be groups imposing their definitions on others. According to the social constructionist labelling theory there is not much difference between deviants and non-deviants, the only reason they are labelled deviant is because other people see their behaviour as unusual or abnormal but this theory asks the question who is the deviant.

The labelling theory would agree with the Marxist perspective that once people are given labels with certain expectations they will live up to those labels or society will see them according to their labels, for example social class. Functionalist Emile Durkheim argued that crime is necessary to society as it allows boundaries to be re-enforced. Durkheim believed that society is held together by shared economic values, that when a person is arrested for a crime they are clarifying the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and giving society an opportunity to reaffirm these values thus safeguarding a continued social cohesion.

Erikson agreed with this theory pointing out the drama of a court room scene and the media involved in a court case again publicising the boundaries as well as condemning the criminal act. Marxists argue that the young, working class or black communities generally commit the type of opportunistic crime publicised in this way. Crime committed by the privileged class has a tendency to escape punishment. Such as white collar or corporate crime. Many big financial institutions prefer to police themselves rather than risk a scandal when crimes such as tax evasion or fraud are committed.

The term corporate crime means crime committed by companies in order to increase profits. Marxist Steven Box points out that cost and losses brought about through corporate crime may be as much as ? 16 billion a year this figure has increased with the growth of the European union, this is only the financial cost. It is estimated that over 500 employees each year are killed and 18,000 injured due to industrial accidents. Approximately 300 of the deaths and up to two-thirds of the injuries caused by failure to observe health and safety regulations.

An example of corporate crime would be the Herald of Free Enterprise a cross-channel ferry which sank in 1989. The person directly responsible claimed he worked long hours and was tired which resulted in him falling asleep on the job. However investigation revealed that it was normal practice to leave the bow doors open when the ship left dock to achieve a faster crossing time, this would mean higher profits for the company as would lower staffing levels resulting in tired staff. 100 lives were lost when the ship sank but when the case came to court nobody was punished; no crime had been committed.

This according the Marxist theory proves that law is created by the bourgeoisie, to protect the bourgeoisie. The Marxist could say that the deaths of these people were no less murder than the death of a person in a street fight but nobody was brought to justice. Another consideration is the employment gained through law enforcement and the judicial system although Marxists would argue that such employment is held by the ruling classes, the police force are given the power to depress the working classes.

Policing is selective there is a higher presence inner city areas, targets are raised and more people are arrested and discriminated against because of their age race or financial background. This results in manipulated statistics as shown in the research by Hall et Al. Functionalist Hirschi asked the question who don’t people commit crime suggesting that without social pressure crime would not be deemed deviant and society would break down.

From a totally different perspective Marxist Steven Box agreed that without the controlling agencies capitalist society would break down suggesting that the law enforcement agencies and judiciary system serve only to keep the proletariat working in order to provide economic security for the bourgeoisie. A breakdown of the agencies of control would lead to crime, which would risk the positions of the middle classes. The Marxist explanation of crime and deviance is exactly that a view from one section of society.

The area of crime and deviance is so vast with so many different opinions to come to a complete explanation one would have to look at all views and form a personal opinion. None of the perspective can be deemed right or wrong each has aspects that could be considered completely biased as well as aspects that could be merged into other perspectives. The Marxist view that the ruling classes create and uphold the laws to protect their position in society could be considered more biased and less flexible than most but again that would be down to personal opinion.


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