Assess the usefulness of Marxist approaches to an understanding of crime and deviance in contemporary society

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Emily Kaill

Assess the usefulness of Marxist approaches to an understanding of crime and deviance in contemporary society

Marxist criminologists argue that the state passes laws which support ruling-class interests, and maintain its control and power over the subject class. They put forward the view that laws do not reflect value consensus, but instead reflect the values of ruling class ideology. Therefore, laws work towards false class consciousness, as laws only benefit the ruling minority. Many Marxists also argue that there are a vast number of laws protecting property, and Snider (1993) argued the state is often reluctant to pass laws which might threaten profitability. She also argued capitalist states often pour large amounts of money into attracting business; for example offering new investors tax concessions and grants. The state may also be reluctant to pass or enforce laws against pollution and worker health and safety, as it may affect profit. Lauren Snider further argued that ‘many of the most serious anti-social and predatory acts committed in modern industrial countries are corporate crimes’. She claimed that corporate crimes do more harm than street crimes such as robbery and murder. Many Marxists also argue that a capitalist economic system generates crime, as economic self-interest and personal gain rather than collective well-being is encouraged. Chambliss (1976) argued; “the greed, self-interest and hostility generated by the capitalist system motivate many crimes at all levels within society.”

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The Marxist view that the laws made by the state represent the interests of the ruling class is perhaps a little narrow as the vast majority of laws actually protect the lives of all members of society, not just the ruling classes. For example; laws against ‘breaking and entering’ protect all stratas in society. Marxist views also appear to be arguing that as laws are made to control and oppress working classes, all proletariat members without these laws would be criminals.

To further criticize the Marxist argument, it could be said that it places too much emphasis on ...

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