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Marxists view of crime Cheat Sheet by

WJEC A2 paper 1 2024


Marxists argue crime is a product of structura forces which reflects inequality that exists within a capitalist of societv. The tvpes of crime that exist are inevitable and will need to be resolved with the overthrow of capita­lism. Marxists argue capitalism breeds the values of greed and compet­ition which led to the need for consumer goods and products causing people to commit crime. Marxists such as Gordon, enforce this ideology. Whereas Becker would argue against Marxist ideology.

crimin­ogenic capita­lism.

-The first main explan­ation of crime that Marxists believe in, is crimin­ogenic capita­lism. This means by its very nature, capitalism causes crime. capitalism is based on the exploi­tation of the prolet­ariat which therefore, means it is damaging to the workin­g-class and may cause crime to increase. Gordon argues crime is a rational response to the capitalist system.
-Poverty may mean that crime is the only way the workin­g-class can survive, as this may be the only way they can obtain the consumer goods encouraged by capitalist advert­ising. This then results in utilit­arian crimes for monetary gain, such as theft. However, Marxists believe crime is not onlv a workin­g-class phenom­enon, but it also occurs at all levels of society.
-For example, white-­collar crime is carried out by the ruling class, such as embezz­lement of money. Although. the omncia statistics make it appear as a mainly workin­g-class phenomenon and cause society to view it as such.
-Postm­ode­rnist crimin­oloey reiects Marxist crimin­ology, as they would argue that this view is nor believable or defens­ible.

ideolo­gical function of crime and law.

-Pearce argues, laws are often passed which are aimed at benefiting the workin­g-c­lass, such as workplace health and safety laws.
-However, such laws often also benefit the ruling bourge­oisie by keeping workers fit for work and loyal to employees. This creates a false consci­ousness amongst workers. making it seem like laws are introduced to benent them. when in reality they benent capita­lism.
-This introduces the idea of the American dream, as workers believe they are being treated equally in the workforce. Therefore explai­ning, how Marxists believe that even in legal
-circu­mst­ances, capitalism creates crime by entorcing social class ditter­ences. However, other theories such as functi­ona­lists and intera­cti­ona­lists. would argue that Marxists reiect other theories of crime such as Durkheim's idea of anomie. and becker's labelling theory, etc.

critical crimin­ology

-Neo-M­arxists often look at critical crimin­ology based on Marxism and intera­cti­onism. Hall looks at a fully social theory of deviance during his theory of policing the crisis. It focused on a moral panic surrou­nding muggings in Britain in the 1970s.
-The British newspapers repeatedly reported incidents of mugging, which led to a wave of concern of threats to society. This was built on the idea of a collective fear of an 'enemy within, mainly young, black men.
-Hall argued, the idea of a black mugger was a scapegoat for other social issues occurring at the mime such as the economic decline. By repres­enting the black youth as a threat to the fabric of society, the moral panic served to divide the workin­g-class on racial grounds and weaken opposi­tions to capita­lism.
-This therefore caused the workIn­g-class to turn against black males and reinforces capitalist ideology of exploi­tation and discri­min­ation. However. it crime is a resoonse to oppres­sion. then surely the most oppressed people and the poorest would be the most criminal.
-These are usually the oldest in society and women. In reality both of these groups are underr­epr­esented in crime feures. therefore critiguing the Marxist VIew


In conclu­sion, Marxists often focus on social class and the effects of capitalism on society. They argue ideas such as the state and law enforc­ement, control and encourage the corruption and exploi­tation that the ruling class creates. Therefore, creating class ditter­ences within societv. Theorists such as Karl Marx push the marxist narrative. Whereas feminists such as Carlen, would critique Marxism as being biased against women, as there is little focus on gender.

state and law making.

-other main explan­ation of crime that Marxists believe in, is the state and law making. Marxists view law making and enforc­ement as only serving in the interest of the capitalist class. Chambliss argues, that laws to protect private property are the 'corne­rstone' of a capitalist society. They suggest that much of what takes place in the creation of rules is non-de­cis­ion­-ma­king.
-For example, the right of homeowners to keep houses empty, is put before the right to shelter. Many issues such as the way wealth is distri­buted never reach the point of discus­sion.
-There­fore. capitalism engraves ruling class ideology into society through the law, further explaining the Marxist view ot crime. Although. perhaps the distri­bution of power is not as simple as some Marxists suggest. Jones gives the example of insider trading, which is illegal, this suggests capita­lists do not alwavs get the laws they want, and that society is not ruled by capitalism

justice system select­ively reinforces law.

-This is when government officials (police, judges, etc. choose whether or how to punish a person who has violated the law.
-Gordon argued that this helos to maintain ruling class power. which gives the impression that criminals are mainly located in the workin­g-class and cause law-en­for­cement to patrol these areas are more intensely. While these powerless groups are crimin­alised the police and courts tend to ignore the crimes of the powerful.
-For example, people who commit white collar crime and tax evasion are barely prosec­uted, whereas benefit fraud often is 'doing the double'. This therefore, reinforces capitalist ideology as the workin­g-class are being exploited through the criminal justice system.
-However, Left realists believe that Marxists put too much emphasis on corporate crime. Lea and Young talk about other crimes done by subcul­tures such as burglary which cause greater harm than Marxist imolv. Their vichms are usually working class and the conseq­uences can be devast­ating for them.

black crimin­ality is a myth.

-In close relation, Neo-Ma­rxists also believe that black crimin­ality is a myth. Paul Gilroy suggests that police statistics on black crime do not reflect the reality of what is happening on the streets, but instead the precon­cep­tions of the police.
-Inter­act­ion­alist Cicoure argues. that these precon­cep­tions stem from typini­cations made by the police and often encouraged by the media, causes crimin­ality within the workin­g-class and ethnic minori­ties. The media and police were operating on stereo­types and labels of young black men, as more criminal than others, creating inequality within society.
-Thus, explaining how Marxists believe, black crimin­ality is a myth by questi­oning the validity of police statis­tics.
-However, this has been criticised for failing to examine the impact of gender in crime. In fact, more recently Young and Walton acknow­ledge that has a problem with their earlier ideas of critical crimin­ology.


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