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May 10, 2018 / C H Thompson

Marxist perspective of crime – revision notes with evaluative points

Traditional Marxist view of crime can be seen to be based on three main elements:

  1. Criminogenic capitalism
  2. The state and law making
  3. Selective enforcement

Criminogenic capitalism

  • For Bonger (1916) the competitive and individualistic tendencies of capitalism encourages egotism and therefore criminality is like to flourish.
  • More importantly he recognised crime wasn’t confined to the working classes, the ruling class were also criminal simply because the opportunities for crime came with their power and lack of morality in the search for profit

The state and law making

Sixty years later Chambliss’ moved Bongor’s points forward by concentrating on the role of the economic production on social relations (including crime):

  1. noting how the ruling-class will violate laws with impunity while members of the subject class are punished
  2. certain acts are defined as criminal because it’s in the interests of the ruling-class to define them so
  3. crime will persist in capitalist societies because such societies promote inequalities, class-conflict and penal laws expand accordingly

Selective enforcement

  • Spitzer (1975) argues deviants and criminals are ‘constructed’ when certain social groups (working-class) create problems those who rule.
  • In other words. any person who calls into question the social conditions under which capitalist production takes place eg not in paid-work; skip school; call for family diversity are likely to find themselves subjected to a process of criminalisation


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