Marxism and Crime

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Traditional Marxist Perspectives on Crime
Marxist Perspective on Crime/3/4/2000/P.Covington/2000 Deviance Disc

The history of criminal legislation in England and in many countries shows that an excessive prominence was given by law to the protection of property. Herbert Manheim

Property crime is better understood as a normal and conscious attempt to amass property than as the product of faulty socialisation or inaccurate and spurious labelling. Both working class and upper class crime…. Are real features of society involved in a struggle for property, wealth and self-aggrandisement…? A society which is predicated on unequal right to the accumulation of property gives rise to the legal and illegal desire to accumulate property as rapidly as possible. Taylor et al 1975 Writers

William Chambliss, Milton Mankoff, Frank Pearce, Lauren Snider

Page References

Sociology Themes and Perspectives: Haralambos: 4th Edition, 414-419 Investigating Mass Media: Moore: 68-77, Second Edition.


Interactionist approaches opened up a concern with the process of criminalisation, but failed to explore this process in the context of the social, political and economic organisations of society. Nor did they ask why some acts were defined as deviant whereas others were not. This issue became a central theme of Marxist criminology.

While Marx did not write at length about crime, Marx argued that the laws were generally the codified means by which one class, the rulers, kept another class, the rest of us in check.

Marxists recognise that for a society to function efficiently, social order is necessary. However, apart from communist societies, they consider that in all societies one class – the ruling class – gains far more than other classes. Marxists agree with functionalists that socialisation plays a crucial role in promoting conformity and order. However, unlike the latter, they are highly critical of the ideas, values and norms of capitalist society, which they term ‘capitalist ideology’. Modern Marxists point to education and the media as socialising agencies, which delude or ‘mystify’ the working class into conforming to a social order, which works against its real interests.

Basic Beliefs:

The idea that the poor are driven to commit crime strongly underpins the theories of those criminologists who have taken Marx’s work further…

* Deviance is partly the product of unequal power relations and inequality in * general. It is an understandable response to the situation of poverty. * See power as largely being held by those who own the factors of production. * Crime is often the result of offering society-demeaning work with little sense of creativity. The Marxist concept of alienation can be applied here. * The superstructure serves the ruling classes.

* The state passes laws, which support ruling class interests. Maintain its power, coerce, and control the proletariat. They see individual property rights as much more securely established in law than the collective rights of, for instance, trade unions. * Laws passed reflect the wishes and ideologies of the ruling classes. * Moreover, people have unequal access to the law. Having money to hire a good lawyer can meant the difference between being found not guilty or guilty. * Thus for Marxists punishment for a crime may depend and vary according to the social class of the perpetrator. *

* * Given the Above the Main issues for Marxists are....
* The manipulation of basic values and morality of society * The process of law creation.
* The enforcement of law
* Individual motivation.
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