Marxism Crime & Deviance

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Crime and Deviance

This essay will evaluate the Marxist theory that the ruling class in society decides the law and enforces it, to reflect their own interests. Marxism is a political and social system based on the ideas of Karl Marx (1818-83). Marxist criminology theories began in the 1970’s. According to Marxists, society is controlled by the ruling capitalist class. They believe that in a capitalist society, a small group of wealthy people (the bourgeoisie), own the means of production, such as; factories, businesses, land, etc and that they exploit the working class people (the proletariat), so that they can enjoy a huge profit and personal gain, either legally or illegally. Marxists believe that the ruling class therefore decide the law help their own personal interests and needs. Reflecting this Marxist theory, P. Self states that “crime is an inevitable feature of a capitalist economy which promotes self interest and greed”. So Marxists argue that working-class people are more likely to break the law because of exploitation and poverty. Crimes of the rich and powerful bourgeoisie can frequently go undetected because of the state and large businesses help each other. Individuals may also be labelled as ‘deviant’, simply because they might be involved in political acts that challenge the social order. Marxists believe that laws cannot be ‘neutral ‘, because they are made by the powerful to maintain their own privileged positions. Marxists therefore argue that capitalism is crimogenic – it is the single over-riding cause of all crime and deviancy in society due to poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunity. A poor underclass is formed who have to rely on crime to exist. However they also say the ruling classes themselves are deviant, by committing crimes that protect their power and wealth. Capitalist led governments turn a blind eye to this. William Chambliss’ study in 1976 illustrated this when he described organised crime in Washington, U.S.A. He concluded that individuals in the police force, the business world and the local government, worked together to make money in gambling and prostitution, however, critics of Marxism would question how frequent this corruption was throughout the country and on its own, proves nothing without a lot more evidence.

Marxists always see working class criminal types as victims of the capitalist state. They are ‘forced’ into it simply to survive. The prison system is also a source of cheap labour, believing that there is a connection between the use of workers in factories and in prisons. Those who go along with capitalism have been persuaded from early childhood to conform to the capitalist mentality, due to consistent messages and brainwashing, especially from the media and education. If capitalist ‘brainwashing’ fails, then threat of punishment is the result. For example, the General Strike in Britain (1926) and in the Coal Miners’ strike during 1984-5 saw workers and union leaders being used as scapegoats and being branded as criminal threats to a civilised society. The police used violence, under orders from their superiors, who in turn had the tacit approval of their political masters. This scenario can also be applied, under Marxist theories, to any other so called deviant groups perceived by the authorities, or government, to be a threat, for example, black young male gangs, inner city groups, ‘new age’ travellers , immigrants, student protesters, and so on. Marxists would point to Margaret Thatcher, who in her role as Prime Minister stated, ‘There is no such thing as society’ In other words, there is no coherent community, and the government has no responsibility for helping out with any group or social class in moral or actual terms. Individuals have a responsibility to take action for their own economic and social wellbeing. Marxists say that it’s the rich that have most influence amongst the decision makers at the expense of the less fortunate....
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