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Asses the Marxist Perspective on Crime

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Introduction

Outline and examine the usefulness of the Marxist perspective on crime. In sociology, deviance refers to behaviours or actions which are considered abnormal and undesirable; in other words, they contravene cultural/social norms (for example swearing in public). At a certain point in time, a society may decide that some specific acts are so undesirable that they warrant punishment. When laws are passed against deviant acts, they become crimes (for example murder). In this essay, I will look at the Marxist perspective and how it has contributed to the study and understanding of crime and deviance. Whilst Functionalism is a perspective based on 'value consensus', Marxism holds at its core the theory of conflict and class struggle in society. According to Marx, there is a fundamental division between what he sees are the two classes of society: the capitalists (or bourgeoisie), who own the means of production (e.g. money, property, raw materials - 'capital') and the working-class, who do not own capital. From a Marxist point of view, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie hold conflicting positions - for example, factory workers will inevitably wish for high wages, whilst factory owners will want to maximise their profits by paying workers as little as possible. ...read more.

Middle

'White-collar' crimes, such as corporate/financial frauds, are rarely discovered and even more rarely prosecuted, despite the fact that they can have devastating effects; on the other hand, more visible 'street crimes' are severely punished by the agents of social control. Moreover, people have unequal access to a fair trial - having the money to pay for a good lawyer can mean the difference between being found guilty or not guilty. In this light, Marxists play down the significance of official statistics, which predominantly record 'blue-collar' crimes, claiming that they are a social construction and that they do not reflect the truth. Radical criminology, a strand of neo-Marxism, developed in the 1970s through the work of Ian Taylor, Paul Walton and Jock Young as an alternative perspective to traditional Marxist criminology. Like traditional Marxists, they see the economy as the most important part of society and they believe that the inequalities in wealth and power between individuals in capitalist societies are the root cause of crime. However, unlike Marxists, they reject theories suggesting that external forces can direct human behaviour (for example the strain to anomie). Taylor et al insist that crimes are often deliberate acts with political motives, and that deviants are not just the passive victims of capitalism, but that they are actively fighting and trying to alter capitalism. ...read more.

Conclusion

The concept of marginalisation refers to groups at the margins of society, those without socio-political representation and clearly defined objectives. Typically, unemployed youths of minority ethnic groups resort to crime as an expression of their resentment to a society which doesn't offer them anything. Essentially, left realism is criticised for failing to explain the causes of crime - it relies extensively on victimisation statistics and only takes into account the views of victims on certain issues. Also, left realism fails to explain why some people who suffer from relative deprivation commit crime and others do not. However, it has highlighted the importance of understanding street crime and has influenced crime tackling policies. The traditional Marxist perspective on crime has been essential in illustrating the many flaws of capitalism and pointing out that crime is not exclusively a working class phenomenon. In many respects, however, it has a rather simplistic view on the relations of power in capitalist societies. Moreover, it is in large part race and gender blind, and it emphasises the significance of corporate crime at the expense of other crimes. Most importantly of all, perhaps, it wrongly assumes that a communist system would eliminate crime. Despite these criticisms, Marxism has produced a basis for the understanding of crime and has influenced numerous new approaches which further enrich the study of crime and deviance. ...read more.

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