“Assess the Usefulness of Marxist Theories for an Understanding of Crime and Deviance”

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“Assess the usefulness of Marxist theories for an understanding of crime and deviance” (21 marks)

Sociologists who favour the Marxist approach to explanations of crime concentrate on the exploitative nature of the capitalist society in which we live and how it propels individuals into a life of crime. Marxism is criticised by other theories who do not share their opinion on capitalism – this therefore means they do not share their opinion on crime and deviance.

The traditional Marxist view on crime is that capitalism is a system based on greed, competition, materialism and consumerism and that this creates the conditions for crime. They say that capitalism drives people to commit crime – crime is motivated by financial gain which is logical in a capitalist system, they also explain non-utilitarian crimes by saying they are caused by frustration with an unjust system. They believe that the capitalist system creates laws that seem to favour the working class and make them think the system is just but these are only put in place to placate them and give the appearance of fairness. Traditional Marxists also recognise that crime happens across all social strata’s and challenge the view that crime is a working class phenomenon. However, corporate crimes are often ignored or treated more leniently even though they are actually more harmful and costly than street crime.

Still, this take on crime can be criticised. There is too much emphasis on class inequalities in policing and law enforcement – they fail to recognise racial biases/discrimination. Their theory is also very deterministic, believing that criminals are driven to crime as victims of the corrupting capitalist system. This ignores real victims of crime.

NeoMarxism is an approach that extends the Marxist theory. They share the view that capitalist societies are characterised by inequalities in wealth and power between individuals and that these inequalities lie at the root of crime. However,...
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