Crime is inevitable in capitalism because it is criminogenic - its very nature causes crime.
Capitalism is based on the exploitation of the
working class for profit. As a result:
Poverty may mean crime is the only way some can survive.
Crime may be the only way of obtaining consumer goods
encouraged by capitalist advertising, resulting in utilitarian
crimes, e.g. theft.
Alienation may cause frustration & aggression, leading to
non-utilitarian crimes, e.g. violence, vandalism.
Capitalism us a win-at-all-costs system
of competition, while the profit motive
encourages greed. This encourages
capitalists to commit corporate crimes,
e.g. tax evasion, breaking health & safety
GORDON argues crime is a rational
response to capitalism & thus is
found in all classes.
THE STATE & LAW MAKING
MARXISTS see law making & enforcement as
serving the interests of the capitalist class.
CHAMBLISS argues that laws to protect private
property are the basis of the capitalist economy.
The ruling class have the power to prevent
the introduction of laws harmful to their
interests. Few laws challenge the unequal
distribution of wealth.
While all classes commit crime, there is selective
enforcement of the law.
REIMAN shows that crimes of the powerful are
much less likely to be treated as criminal
offences & prosecuted.
CARSON, in a sample of 200 firms, found all had
broken health & safety laws, yet only 1.5% of cases
By contrast, there is a much higher rate
of prosecutions for the crimes of the
IDEOLOGICAL FUNCTIONS OF CRIME & LAW
Some laws benefit workers e.g. health & safety, however PEARCE argues that these
also benefit capitalism by giving it a 'caring' face, they create false consciousness.
Because the state enforces the law selectively, crime appears to be
largely working-class. This divides the working-class, encouraging
workers to blame working-class criminals for their problems, rather
Selective enforcement distorts the crime
statistics. By making crime appear largely
working-class, it shifts attention from the more
serious ruling-class crime.
CRITICISMS OF TRADITION MARXISM
NEO-MARXISTS TAYLOR ET AL criticise for its
determinism; e.g. it sees workers as driven to commit
crime out of economic necessity. They reject this view,
along w/ other theories that claim crime is caused by
external factors, e.g. anomie, blocked opportunities.
Not all poor people commit crime, despite poverty & alienation.
Not all capitalist societies have high crime rates e.g. Japan
has much less crime than America.
FEMINISTS criticise for being 'genderblind'.
Ignores non-property crime & deviance.
NEO-MARXISM - CRITICAL CRIMINOLOGY
TAYLOR ET AL take a voluntaristic view (the idea that we have
free will): crime is a conscious choice often w/ a political motive,
e.g. to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor. Criminals are
deliberately struggling to change society.
A FULL SOCIAL THEORY OF DEVIANCE
TAYLOR ET AL aim to create a 'fully social
theory of deviance' - a comprehensive theory
that would help to change society for the
better. This theory has 2 main sources:
TRADITIONAL MARXIST ideas about the
unequal distribution of wealth & who has power
to make & enforce the law.
LABELLING THEORY'S ideas about the
meaning of deviant act for the actor,
societal reactions to it, & the effects of
the deviant label on the individual.
CRITICISMS OF NEO-MARXISM
Criticised by LEFT REALISTS for
romanticising working-class criminals
as 'Robin Hoods' fighting capitalism.