Marxist and neo-Marxist approaches and explanations of crime are arguably some of the most controversial, for the reason that they state that it is the ruling class that is responsible for criminalising the working classes, which goes directly against what official statistics and Functionalists believe. However, Marxism and Functionalism do share a similarity in that both believe structures and institutions of society play a very important role in determining how people behave, criminally or otherwise.
Marxist sociologists argue that in order to understand crime and deviance, one needs to realise that it is the nature of exploitative economic systems that capitalist societies have in place that is primarily responsible. This is because the bourgeoisie and ruling classes oppress and exploit the working classes, which drives them into poverty. This causes a rift between the “haves” and the “have-nots” as the workers try to end exploitation whilst the owners of the means of production aim to keep the system to maintain profits. Most Marxists agree that crime is the result of poverty created through this system, for example people steal because they are materially deprived which is a result of low wages being paid by the ruling classes. This is a reason Marxists would give for the over-representation of the working classes in official crime statistics.
On the other hand, Functionalists may argue that crime is not caused by material deprivation but by poor socialisation. The new right is particularly damning in its evaluation of this particular Marxists idea, saying crime stems from the welfare state and permissiveness.
Another Marxist argument is that it isn’t just the material deprivation caused by “wage slavery” but that capitalism generates crime due to the selfish mindset it creates. These feelings create crime as people put themselves first and in this world of advertising and consumerist culture,...