Examine definition the cornerstone upon which capitalist economies
Examine some of the ways in which Marxists explain crime Marxist theories of crime, including the more recent neo-Marxist theories, are conflict approaches. They see society based on conflict between social classes, and social inequality caused by capitalism as the driving force behind crime.
One way that Marxists explain crime is through the law. Marxists argue that the law functions to reinforce the ideology of society – the power of the ruling class over the working class. Many laws can be seen to function for the benefit of the bourgeoisie, such as property laws.Chambliss claimed that property laws were very important during capitalism, and said ‘the heart of the capitalist economic system is the protection of private property which is by definition the cornerstone upon which capitalist economies function. It is not surprising, then to find that criminal laws reflect this basic concern. ’ Therefore, crime can be seen to occur within the working class because laws against certain behaviours have been created, and white-collar crimes often committed by the ruling class are overlooked as they do not break any laws imposed by the ruling class.However, Marxists fail to recognise that the law does not simply protect ruling-class interests – there is a wide range of laws that are in everyone’s interests, such as those on health and safety, consumer protection, traffic laws and those against household and vehicle theft and violence of all kinds.
The police try to protect the public from victimization, and are not simply ruling-class agents who repress the working class. Marxists also argue that crime takes place in all classes, but it is mainly the working class who are convicted for their crimes.This is because the police have selective enforcement. Snider argues that there are many white collar and corporate crimes, and argues that these often are more damaging and cost more money and lives than street crimes such as burglary, robbery and murder. Despite the amount of corporate crimes the penalties and chances of prosecution are low.
Prosecutions are only used as a last resort and it is likely to be small rather than large businesseswho are prosecuted.That is because these kinds of crimes work in the favour of capitalism. However, the Marxist explanation of crime puts too much emphasis on class inequality in relation to crime, and neglects other inequalities such as ethnicity and gender. Gordon uses the Marxist ideas to argue that the selective law enforcement supports capitalism. By punishing working class criminals it protects capitalism which is responsible for their criminal deviance – in other words, the working class criminal is blamed rather than capitalism.The imprisonment of selected members of the working class neutralises opposition to the system. Black working class individuals are especially more likely to be imprisoned.
The selective enforcement of the law against the working class serves to maintain ruling class power. It diverts attention from ruling class crime, and diverts the attention of working class from their exploitation and directs their frustrations onto working class criminals rather than capitalism.In Jeffrey Reinman’s book (2001) ‘The Rich Get Richer and The Poor Get Prison’ – shows that the more likely a crime is to be committed by a higher class person, the less likely it is to be treated as a criminal offence. However, Marxists fail to develop any possible solutions to crime, apart from destroying the capitalist system and reducing social inequality. Neo-Marxists criticise the Marxists for being too deterministic – it over predicts the number of working class who commit crime. Not all poor people commit crime, despite the pressures of poverty.Neo-Marxists explain crime as a political choice or an act of rebellion.
For example, black power movement, women’s liberation movement and the gay liberation front are all examples of fighting back against capitalism. Many crimes against poverty involve the redistribution of wealth. Deviants are not just passive victims of capitalism; they are actively struggling to alter capitalism. Paul Gilroy claims that crimes are frequently conscious and deliberate political acts, a reaction to racism. In the 1970’s and 1980’s capitalism created the political revolt of Blacks and racist policies of police towards Blacks.Black criminals defended themselves and hit back at a racist society.
However, not all crimes are conscious acts of rebellion or political choice. Petty crimes such as littering often have no motivation behind them. Stuart Hall, a neo-Marxist, did a study influenced by Gramsci and his concept of hegemony. The study looks at how muggings were reported in the middle 1970’s and the moral panic that this caused.
Hall et all argued those who challenged the hegemonic ideology were labelled as criminals by the state.Black working class began to be labelled as deviant individuals, and the black working class were treated as a reserve pool of labour, with low status, low paid insecure work and high unemployment which lead to petty crimes, living up to their labels. Left realism heavily criticise these theories as being too idealistic – particularly the idea that the working class criminals are Robin Hoods, fighting capitalism and redistributing wealth. Feminists also criticise these theories for being gender blind, as both Marxism and Neo-Marxism focus exclusively on male criminality.