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Assess the contribution of Marxist theories to an understanding of the relationship between deviance and power.

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Introduction

Assess the contribution of Marxist theories to an understanding of the relationship between deviance and power. 40marks. The Marxist approach to deviance is very varied, incorporating a wide number of sociologists who interpret Marx differently. The basic Marxist approach at its simplest is seen as the working class rebelling against the suppressive capitalist system. This is a positivist approach to understanding crime and deviance because deviant behaviour is explained as being produced by forces beyond individual's controls. Neo-Marxists agree with traditional Marxists, however they believe that the explanation for deviance does not lie solely in the infrastructure of society, they also try to be aware of reactions to those who break the law. This is a social action theorist's perspective; they accuse positivist's ideas as being too deterministic, regarding the individual as being too trapped by circumstances and having no free will to resist the circumstances. Under the umbrella term of Marxism also comes a subcultural approach and Left Realism that provide a less idealistic explanation for deviance. The basic Marxist approach to deviance focuses on the working class suppression by the capitalist system. It sees the Capitalists as using socialisation to maintain control in society, as well as creating laws that benefit and protect the capitalists. A good example of this comes from a study by Box, the study focused on the extent to which large corporations commit crime. ...read more.

Middle

Mugging is not even a crime under the law, rather a term used to define various different forms of violence or theft. This study demonstrates the Neo-Marxist approach to deviance as well as illustrating the internationalist approaches Neo-Marxists use. It has been criticised for contradicting itself and also by not showing that the rise of crime was because of a crisis in British Capitalism. Gilroy also supports the theory of labelling in relation to Marxism. He approaches black criminality, seeing it as a result of the social structure as a whole; blacks and Asians are blamed for society's problem, which are in reality the responsibility of the capitalists. Left Realists, Lea and Young, criticise Gilroy's approach, they do not see certain types of crime being specialized toward certain ethnic minority groups. Lea and Young also argue that Traditional Marxists and Neo-Marxists are too idealistic about the causes of crime. They believe Traditional and Neo Marxists place too much emphasis on white-collar crime and neglect street crime. Lea and Young draw on three theories as part of their over all idea about the causes of street crime. Firstly Lea and Young believe relative deprivation can cause crime, individuals feel deprived compared to other groups, especially with the media stressing the importance of economic success and exposure to middle class values. As a result the deprived individuals come together into subcultures in order to adapt and cope with new lifestyles, one subculture response can be crime. ...read more.

Conclusion

Merton saw deviance arising from the class structure, and the strain between 'goals', the values held by society, and the 'means', the norms of society; the way the 'goals' are achieved. The strain can lead to a state of anomie, or normlessness and a response to this is crime. The environment can also be a factor in causing deviance. Ecological theories of crime include ideas of 'social disorganization' where the mechanisms of society that prevent people from committing crime in certain areas are weak or absent. This is developed to mean the values laid down by society are rejected in certain areas, often the poorest areas of society. Other ecological explanations say it is the individuals exposure to those who break the law that cause them to turn to crime themselves, as well as placing problem families together that can amplify the problem. In conclusion, Marxists approach to deviance is a very wide perspective. These theories, especially Neo-Marxist, are useful because they combine positivist and internationalist, therefore both qualitative and quantative methods of investigating, and so potentially getting very thorough results. They do tend to look at society very negatively, unlike functionalists for example. Marxist contribute a wide range and large number of theories towards the explanation for deviance, extending the explanation for crime even further and allowing further understanding into why crime exists and what can be done to prevent it. ...read more.

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