Assess the Contribution of Marxism to our Understanding of Crime and Deviance (30)

An essay plan on the Marxist Theory of Crime and Deviance – starting with an introduction outlining the Marxist conception of social class and then covering 4-5 key points such as the costs of corporate crime, selective law enforcement and crimogenic capitalism, with some overall evaluations and a conclusion to round off. 

Brief intro outlining key ideas of Marxist Theory (links to Theory and Methods):

  • Conflict Perspective
  • Class Structure (Bourgeoisie/ Proletariat)
  • Capitalism/ Economic Power = other forms of power (Private Property)
  • Exploitation/ extraction
  • False consciousness/ ideological control
  • Political Perspective supports working class struggle and revolution

Point One – The law is made by the elite and supports their interests

  • William Chambliss said this
  • Against the consensus view of the law
  • Most of the law is protection of Private Property
  • The whole history of Colonialism supports

Point Two – All classes commit crime, the crimes of the elite are more harmful and they are more likely to get away with it

  • Laureen Snider said this
  • High profile case studies support this – Bernie Madhoff/ Bhopal
  • Statistically supported by Tombs and Whyte

Point Three – Selective Law Enforcement and Ideological Functions

  • Working class crime more likely to be punished and criminals jailed
  • NOT interactionism, although their work supports this
  • 3* ideological functions – e.g. neutralisation of opposition

Point Four – Crimogenic Capitalism

  • Crime is a natural outgrowth of Capitalism
  • David Gordon ‘Dog Eat Dog society’
  • Capitalism breeds desire, selfishness, materialism

Bonus Point Five – Add in Neo-Marxism – The Fully Social Theory of Deviance

  • Taylor, Walton and Young – Moral Panics against WC crime = a tool of social control
  • Stuart Hall – Policing the Crisis – good illustration of the above
  • See criminals as a ‘revolutionary vanguard’

Best Overall Evaluations



+ Better than Consensus Theory – doesn’t ignore power and inequality

+ The law does benefit the rich more because the poor have no significant property

+ Highlights the cost of Corporate Crime and the injustice (links to Victimology)

+ On the side of the many victims of Elite Crime

– Economically Deterministic – Evidence that crime exists in non-capitalist societies and crime is going down in the UK

– Postmodernism – Doesn’t explain recent changes in crime – causes are more complex

– Realisms – Not pragmatic – offers not immedate ways of controlling crime

– Realisms – out of touch with working class victims of crime

Conclusion – How Useful is this theory?

+ Useful if you’re a victim of elite crime and think long term political change is required to end this problem.

– Not useful if you’re a victim of ‘ordinary working class crime’ and want immediate solutions to your problems.

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1 Response to Assess the Contribution of Marxism to our Understanding of Crime and Deviance (30)

  1. Pingback: The Marxist Perspective on Crime | ReviseSociology

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