Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the strength and limitations of Marxist theories in explaining crime and deviance (21 marks)
Marxist theories of crime are based on conflict, as opposed to the functionalist and subcultural explanations of crime, which are based on consensus. They claim that society is divided by capitalism and there is a conflict between the upper-classes and the working-classes. They suggest that social inequality, as a result of capitalism, is the cause of crime. As Item A points out, there are two types of Marxists: the Traditional Marxists and the Neo Marxists. The starting point for Marxist and neo-Marxist approaches is the laws, and how the ways ...view middle of the document...
Chambliss, as mentioned in item A, (1975) argues that laws made to protect property are the cornerstone of the capitalist economy meaning that law protects those who already own which are mainly the upper class. For example: the growth in tea and coffee means they needed the locals to work on the plantations. To do this, they introduced a tax that the locals had to pay and to pay it, they needed to work. Not paying was seen as a punishable criminal offence. This law served the interests of the plantation owners as people needed to work in order to pay the tax.
It is argued that powerless groups, like the working class, are criminalised whereas crimes of the powerful tend to be ignored. Reiman (2001) found that the more likely a crime is to be committed by higher class people, the less likely it is to be treated as a criminal offence. This results in a disproportionate high rate of prosecutions for the types of crimes poor people typically commit eg, theft. Crimes committed by the higher classes, like tax evasions, are treated more forgivingly. This shows that the upper class are treated more forgivingly than the working class. Some Marxists believe that sometimes laws are passed that seem to benefit the working class rather than capitalism however; Frank Pearce (1976) argues that these laws to benefit the upper class. For example, keeping workers fit for work by passing health and safety laws. This creates false consciousness as it projects that capitalism is caring for its workers.
This theory offers a useful explanation of the relationship between crime and capitalist society. It shows the link between law making and enforcement and the interests of the capitalist class (by doing so it also puts into a wider structural context the insights of labeling theory regarding the selective enforcement of the law). It casts doubt on the validity of official statistics on crime. Official statistics are of little use if they simply reflect a policy of selective law enforcement and ruling class control. It has also influenced recent approaches to the study of the crimes of the powerful.
Marxists may argue that capitalism is responsible for all crimes, but crime is still evident in communists societies, thus capitalism may not lead to all crimes. Jones looked at the crime rates of Switzerland and found that they were exceedingly low, despite it being a capitalist society. Left Realists would argue that while white collar crime is inevitably underreported, working class crimes affect people more on a personal and economic level. Marxists, however, ignore this fact. Postmodernists would argue that society is now too fragmented for Marxism to apply anymore
The Corporate Homicide Act (2007) has been developed to deal with corporate crime.
In response to the criticisms of traditional Marxist theory of crime, the Neo Marxist theory was brought about. Sociologists Taylor, Walton and Young, as mentioned in Item A, attempted to produce a ‘fully...