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Evaluate Marxist explanations of deviance.

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Introduction

Evaluate Marxist explanations of deviance (50 marks) Despite the fact that Karl Marx wrote very little about crime, the Marxist approach has been one of the most important approaches in explaining deviant behaviour. Marxists mainly base their ideas and theories upon how the ruling class control society. They say that the high rate of crime in western capitalist societies represents a protest against alienation and powerlessness. Capitalism is a competitive ideology; people are encouraged to become aggressive and hostile. In such a society, criminal behaviour is understandable. Steven Box argues for the Marxist approach to crime and control. Box agrees with more right wing writers in that it is release from social control that propels people into committing crime. However, his starting point is not that people are essentially bad, but that capitalist society controls and exploits workers for its own ends, or rather, for the benefit of the ruling class. When people are released on some way from the direct control, then they are much more likely to commit crime because they see the unfairness of the system. ...read more.

Middle

Young's study of 'Mass Media, Drugs and Deviance' argues that the mass media are always supportive of the status quo. Although united labour movements, such as trade unions, have gained the only concessions to working class people in legal rights, these come to be seen in a negative light. Strikers are portrayed as deviants. Young also noted a different level of social reaction to the use of drugs. 72 million tablets are used each year legally, but there is a widespread sense of disapproval about the use of certain drugs by teenagers etc. In 'The Drug Takers' he suggested that they come under police surveillance because those who reject the values of capitalist society are seen as a potential threat. The Marxists, Taylor, Walton and Young argue that capitalist society is characterised by great inequalities in wealth and power. Working-class youth commit crime because of their experience of these injustices. This can also be related to inequalities they found in the educational system. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is an overly deterministic view as it sees the law as operating solely for the benefit of the bourgeoisie and the focus is only on class, so it ignores other factors such as ethnicity. Marxists also support the information provided from the criminal statistics as it gives evidence to support their idea that working class people commit more crimes than middle class males. However, government statistics can be biased as not all crimes are reported, which means conclusions drawn from these statistics will have low validity. The theory also doesn't explain the presence of crime in socialist societies in which there is no private property and ownership of the means of production is communal. Nor does the theory easily explain the fact that there are middle-class offenders who are prosecuted. Functionalists criticise the Marxist idea that law is a reflection of the will of the powerful. Functionalists believe that law is a reflection of the will of people. Also, Left Functionalists such as Jock Young argue that most "Marxism" is little more than form of Functionalism that replaces the interests of "society" with "ruling class". ...read more.

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