Critical evaluation on Marxist theory on Crime:


Both Marx and Engels did not write a
lot about crime in our society however what was written describes a society
where the economical/political ruling classes (Bourgeoisie) defined crimes and laws
to exploit the working class (Proletariat) by threatening them with punishment
if they did not adhere to these laws yet at the same time the ruling were
exempting themselves from the law allowing them to maintain power and wealth. Crime
is then created by lone individuals struggling to accept their economic
disadvantages they have been placed in and ultimately going into crime due to
the inequality created between the classes in an exploitative capitalist


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Crime is a product of a criminogenic
capitalist system. All classes commit crimes in society however it is the
working class that are more likely to be deemed as criminals since the ruling
class have created a system which allows their criminality but penalises crimes
of the working class. In the UK, there are three branches of power that help
protect the interest of the ruling class. The Legislature (Parliament) creates
criminal laws, and the executive (the State i.e. The Prime minister and the
Crown) carry out the law thus defining a criminalisation process (what is
criminal and what is not criminal). The third branch of power is the judiciary
(the Courts) have the power to make judgements on criminal law therefore,
having the power to criminalise by convicting the proletariat of their crimes.
Other Criminal Justice institutions such as the Police, the Crown Prosecution
Service and Prisons also help to implement criminal law. These institutions
ignore the crimes of the powerful causing the working classes to be criminalised.  In our society, the victims of crime are the
working class as they are negatively affected by capitalism. According to Quinney
crime will only end “… with the collapse of capitalist society and the creation
of a new society, based on socialist principles, will there be a solution to
the crime problem” (Quinney, 2002). This would mean some sort of revolution is
needed to change the current policies that uphold the bourgeoisie’s power
because “If social structure is the cause of class conflict resulting in the
exploitation and crime, the only solution is to change the social structure.”
(Lanier and Henry, 2014).


Firstly, in comparison to other
classes of criminology such as positivism and classic criminology, Marxist
criminology is acknowledging there is a victim which is this case is the
working class who are oppressed by capitalism. However, Left realism has
accused Marxist criminology of “ignoring the real victims of crime and
supposedly romanticising or idealising those who commit offences” (Ugwudike,
2015). This suggest that Marxist are too focused on victimising the working
class and they have ignored the actual victim of the crime and just saying they
are also victims of capitalism.

Secondly, Marxism recognises that a
certain class are being deemed as criminal (in this case the working class) and
the Chicago school with Burgees Zonal theory recognises that a certain zone is
deemed where the criminals reside. Shaw and McKay hypothesised “… that Zone
Two, the transitional zone, would contain higher levels of crime” (Lanier and
Henry, 2014, p.186). Both theories recognised that a certain group of society are
criminal. However, the Chicago school has a focus on crimes of the poor
whereas, Marxism discusses crimes of the powerful and the poor. The Chicago
school put an emphasis on empirical evidence so, researchers go into the field
to understand criminals and crime better unlike Marxism, where there is a lack
of empirical evidence. Marxism claims that Socialist societies would end crime
but, there has yet to be a successful case of socialism for example Soviet

Thirdly, Marxism highlights that
there must be a revolution to create a socialist society which will then allow
crime to diminish similarly, Durkheim a structural functionalist came up with
the concept of Anomie (normalness) which is the result of radical social
change. However, unlike a capitalist society in an Anomic society crime is
normal/functional. “…  a society
explicitly committed to competitive individualism should, therefore, expect a
high level of crime…crime are normal” (Lanier and
Henry, 2014, p.214). This means in this society individuals solely focus on
themselves and ignores the rest of society including the law. Structural
Functionalism can be considered idealistic in comparison to Marxism because
Marxism theory is a conflict theory and Marxism recognises that crime needs to
be stopped whereas Functionalism is a consensus theory and Functionalism
believes that crime has a place in society and social regulations and
punishments are the only way to control crime and criminals but, if social
regulations and punishments were a suitable deterrents then crime would cease
all together yet crime still happens despite the reprimands. Marxism focuses on
the criminalisation of the working class however not everyone who is working
class is criminal. Gabriel Tarde specifically states that “crime is simply
normal learned behaviour…the individual was said to learn ideas through the
association with other ideas; and behaviour was said to follow” (Hopkins Burke,
2016). Tarde focuses on the microcosm and realises that the individuals commit
crime whereas Marxism focuses on the macrocosm and generalises the working
class as criminal when not everyone is criminal.

Fourthly, Marxism and labelling
theory both identify that a criminals and deviance is created. The ruling class
uses the criminal justice system to form what is criminal in society and in
labelling theory Becker stated: “that
social groups create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitutes
deviance and by applying those rules to particular people and labeling them
as outsiders.” (Becker, 1963, p.9). Labelling theory ignores the role of power
and how said power can shape criminal perceptions in society opposed to Marxism
where they have identified how the ruling class manipulates what and who is
criminal to protect their interests. Nevertheless, Marxism fail recognise that
people in the ruling class’s criminality is discovered for example, the 2015 FIFA
corruption scandal.

Merton and Marxism both noted that
social inequalities cause people to turn to crime. Marxism saw that class
inequality causes the working class to turn to crime and similarly Merton
discussed the strain of anomie, this is where social structures cannot yield
limitless opportunities for all and, those who cannot have those opportunities
then turn to crime. Merton discusses how not every individual can succeed in
society due have less opportunities in life however Merton fails to discuss why
some people have less opportunities than others although, Marxism explains how
capitalism causes an inequality between classes. Marxism claims the legal
system is responsible for repressing the working class and punishing them when
they break the law however Marxism does not consider that crime is created due
to cultural failure. Merton highlights that people who commit crimes are often
unsuccessful in their cultural goals “…Merton argued that human “appetites” or
desires, are not natural. Rather, they are created by cultural influence.”
(Lanier and Henry, 2014, p.219). Marxism fails to acknowledge other factors
such as culture when analysing why people commit crimes.

Feminism and Marxism both recognise
that there is a social inequality in society. For feminist, the inequality is
between genders (patriarchy) and for Marxists it is class inequalities (capitalism).
Marxism fails to explain gender inequalities with in crime unlike feminism
where the key argument is that patriarchy portrays the female criminal as more
deviant than the male criminal. On the other hand, feminism does not discuss
issues relating to class inequalities and how crime stems from capitalism which
is Marxist criminologist main argument.


Marxist criminology theory explores
how the Bourgeoise uses their power to conceal their own criminality by
manipulating the Criminal Justice System to their own advantage but at the same
time penalising the Proletariat for their deviance. This system creates
inequality between the classes that can only be resolved through socialism. Even
though Marxism discusses the relationship between capitalism and crime unlike
other classes of criminology; Marxism lacks empirical evidence that socialism
will lead to a crime free society and it ignores the fact that not all working
class people turn to crime and some people of the ruling class do get convicted
of their crimes. Overall Marxist criminology does present an accurate picture
of a capitalist society and does explain how firstly how crime occurs due to
class inequalities so individuals turn to crime to have the same economical
gain as the ruling class. Secondly, Marxism explains who is criminal in this
case all classes are criminal but it’s the working that get punished. Thirdly
it defines that the victims of crime are in fact the victims of capitalism which
are the working class. Finally, Marxism details how crime is controlled through
the criminal justice system and how they criminalise the working class and how
the ruling class has the power to criminalise via the criminalise via the
criminal justice system. Despite Marxism depicting a clear explanation of
crime, Marxist criminologists claim the collapse of capitalism will cause crime
to stop yet it appears the that socialism is not a feasible solution to


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