A crime refers to those activities which break the law and are subject to official punishment, for example rape. Deviance refers to those activities which go against the norms, values and beliefs of mainstream culture, i.e. having a baby at the age of 16.
Marxism started by Karl Marx in 1818, and is a sociological approach with which regards people as being the producers and products of society. Marxism criticizes a capitalist society where by the means of production are owned by the ruling class and the lower class. The bourgeoisie are the ruling class, whilst the proletariats are seen as the lower class. The idea of crime and deviance came when Marx tried to look for something in the real world that caused conflicts. He found it in the idea of class struggle. Throughout history the haves and the have-nots have fought against each other for control of food, shelter, money and therefore political power.
In this essay I am going to outline the variety of different approaches from Marxism, for example New Left realists and I will address these in turn and then I will explain the control theories of crime.
Marx actually made a few direct references to deviance in his work but his theories have been applied by a number of people. Marx’s approaches have been through 3 main stages:
* Neo-Marxist and new criminology
* New left realism.
Traditional Marxists contend that capitalism is itself a crime and it causes crime. It is based on oppression and economic exploitation of the majority and creates a competitive ‘dog eat dog’ world in which greed, violence and corruption flourish, which are the only means of survival for some.
According to Marx crime is a manifestation of an unjust social order. The primary purpose of the ‘repressive state apparatus (police, courts) is to protect the private interests of the bourgeoisie rather than the safe guard of the public interest. The legal system is biased in favour of the bourgeoisie as they can afford to hire the best lawyers. Marxists argue that the crime is widespread in all social strata. Marxist criminology focuses on the superstructure which reflects the relationship between the powerful and the powerless.
Traditional Marxists argue that all crime is a response to the class conflict under capitalism and that the working class are acting out revolutionary acts by committing criminal acts. For example football hooliganism. According to a new police report there has been a 8% increase of football related crimes. And as most football supporters are from either lower class or working class backgrounds, they are necessarily blamed for the hooliganism.
Marxist criminology views crime as function of capitalist mode of production. Rape, Murder, Muggings and theft suggests that theses are only available to poor members of society. Tax evasion and corporate crime are available to the middle class, whilst Racism and sexism are not considered as crimes, and are available to the rich.
Marxists believe that certain types of crime are more harshly dealt with compared to others. Street crimes like theft are more likely to be pursued by the police than white-collar crime such as fraud. This is because Marxists believe that certain groups in society are targeted more for law enforcement and that young, black working class males according to Box are more likely to be singled out.
In a study of crime in Seattle, William Chambliss argues that organized crime is not merely the servant of the ruling class but rather an integral part of it. Chambliss interviewed a wide range of different people and the results came out as that power in the form of money and influence is the key factor which determines who gets arrested and who does not.
It is Marxs argument that as the system grows, the cycle of booms and slumps in production will get longer and longer. Quinney adds that crime will increase and there will be greater demands for more and more police. When the cost of policing become so great that they are no longer economic, then the state will drop its mask of neutrality and the bourgeoisie will resort to direct political rule through dictatorship. In these conditions the result would be a socialist society run by workers for workers.
Marx sees society controlled by the bourgeoisie and control being maintained by two distinct ways: socialization- where the basic values guiding action supports the capitalist political and economical system and therefore the law is applied on non powerful groups such as the young working class. And threat – where both police and the army are used to enforce the full existence of threat and violence. Marxists saw the working class as major criminals, crime explanations focus on working class life, instead of the lives of the powerful. Marxism believed that the proletariats are acting against the pressure of the class struggle.
Marxism sees law creation as a reflection of the will of the powerful. This involves the ruling class ensuring that the debate on crime is sympathetic towards the needs of themselves and against the working class. An example of this is the 1994 Public Order and Criminal Justice Act where the state prevented gatherings of small numbers of people, if there was felt to be a possible threat to public order and annoyed the more powerful sectors of society.
S.Hall in his work about policing the crisis it projects the view that “one of the effects of retaining the notion of ‘moral panic’ is the penetration it provides into the otherwise extremely obscure means by which the working classes are drawn into processes which are occurring in large measure ‘behind there backs’ and led to experience and respond to contradictory developments in ways which make the operation of state power legitimate, credible and consensual”. Here he is saying that it allows rulers of society to control the attitudes of majorities of society, and this forces upon them harsher measures of control.
Jock Young put forward the example about the polices reaction towards the hippies in Notting Hill. He states that ‘the police saw the hippies as ‘dirty, scruffy, idle, promiscuous, depraved, good for nothing and drug addicts”. This shows that the polices initial instincts as it shows that they naturally assumed that the hippies were up to no good, just by looking at them and making an unjust assumption about the ‘hippies’. Having being treated and defined as outsiders the ‘hippies’ tend to express this difference, i.e. hair is grown long and unconvential clothes are worn.
Left Realists put forward that our consumer society continually bombards us with messages of ‘must have’ which leaves people who cant afford these things left out and ‘alienated’. Some turn to crime as a result of this.
Left realism originated in Britain but has began to influence criminologists in other parts of the world including Canada and Australia. Left realist criminologists are critical of perspectives which see longer sentences and more prisons as the solution to crime, but they also oppose the views of what they term ‘left idealists’.
Jock Young, John Lea and Roger Matthews are known as the left realists, and they provide an analysis of crime which starts from structural
Politically left realists tend to see their approach as being close to the position of the British Labour Party. Jock Young argues that right-wing politicians in industrial capitalist societies have been particularly successful in presenting themselves as the forces of law and order. Left realists have tried to counter the popularity of right-wing law and order policies by presenting what they see as realistic proposals for change within the frame work of existing societies which address the concerns of ordinary people.
Crime is a problem for the working class as they are usually the victims. If it’s concentrated in the inner cities, on having estates by working class people on working class people.
Modern Marxist view – refers to himself as a left realist’ as opposed to the left ideologists’ who appear to romanticise working class crime. (It is interesting to note that with age, Young has become less radical) Working class people are the victims of a great deal of working class crime and Young now recognises that the social controls provided by the state can protect working class people from crime and criminals.
Working class crime is a response to social disadvantage. If the government were really serious about reducing crime they would try to deal with the matter of unequal distributions of wealth and income.
The lumpenproletariat either consciously or unconsciously directs the crimes against the capitalist system, for which they incur the vigilance of the police as a result of the way that life under capitalism has alienated them, they commit crimes against their own class.
Nearly all crimes among the working class is actually a means of survival and attempt to exist in a society where survival is not assumed by collective means. Crime is inevitable under capitalist conditions. Powerful groups can manipulate the definition of what is considered criminal. Only WC crime considered criminal. When they commit such crimes as fraud, tax evasion, members of privileged groups Corporate Crime. Acts committed by companies to increase profits e.g. breaking health and safety laws/dumping waste to avoid paying for proper disposal. A second meaning includes activities harmful to others, but not illegal.
Working Class crimes are usually theft of property. Marxists see this as ‘understandable’ and they use the example of ‘Robin Hood’ who stole from the rich to give to the poor. Crime can be seen as ‘proletariat revenge’.
Steven Box: In terms of harmed caused to individuals and losses to public in unpaid tax revenue, environmental costs and costs in health and welfare benefits, corporate crime is more serious than street crime/burglary. Estimated ï¿½16billion lost. Process of corporate decision-making is complex; there is no one single person to blame. Often escape punishment, or suffer less severe punishment
White-collar crime is when crime is committed by people in clerical, supervisory or managerial employment Sutherland: First raised idea in 1940’s.
‘Crime committed by person of high social status and respectability in course of his occupation However, such crimes not always by people of high social status.’
Croall: ‘Crime committed in the course of legitimate employment involving the abuse of an occupational role’ – problem with this definition – ignores tax evasion.
White-collar crime characterised by invisibility of victim and complexity. Often occurs when person with expert knowledge uses it to steal or defraud. Difficult to catch them and victim is often unaware. White-collar criminals often given ‘soft’ punishment, given amounts of money involved. Not regarded as seriously as street crime/burglary. Marxists argue it is connected to ability of powerful to manipulate values of society.
Stanley Cohen put forward the study of ‘folk devils and moral panics’, from this Cohen stated: societies appear to be subject every now and then to periods of moral panic’. With this he is highlighting the social concerns about a group being labeled as ‘deviant’ and an increase in criminal behaviour returns.
Pearce (1976) says that if we give priority to working class crime, when on financial grounds the cost of their crime to the community is neglegible when compared to the estimated cost of corporate and white-collar crime.
The most successful criminals are those who can encourage the police to turn a blind eye to their activities. The real criminal class in a lot of countries is that those of the rich and powerful.