Lecture 6 20140405
Social Power and the Construction of Crime
Discussion of Chart:
• In Saskatchewan, there are 80% of Aboriginals in jail and only 20% of the overall population.
Incarceration rates are alarming and as a sociologist we have to look at why it is so high?
• Positivist perspective you would look at statistics.
• It allows governments to ignore the impact to sending so many people to jail.
• It serves as a mechanism to ignore how the First Nations people are left with an inferior state. Left with
not enough support.
• The Red Cross states that there is a humanitarian problem in Canada, which is a first world country in
regards to the treatment Aboriginals.
• Rates of Commission of Inquiry on Aboriginal issues in Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba.
• Poverty and abuse, state crime from the Marxist perspective.
Forerunners of Conflict Theory: Marx and Engels
Capitalism was considered to be at the root of the conflict because it was a source of unjust inequality
• According to Marx and Engels, the resolution to conflict was to destroy capitalism and build toward the
one just form of social solidarity communism
• Marx and Engels saw the problem in economic terms, denounced the new division of labour as the
unjust exploitation of one social class by another, and insisted that social solidarity could only be
regained with the overthrow of capitalism itself.
• Conflict was inherent in the nature if social arrangements under capitalism, for it were capitalism that
generated the vast differences in interests and capitalism that gave the few at top so much power over
many at the bottom.
• First, there was the proposition that conflict of interests between different groups will be increases by
inequality in the distribution of scarce resources (e.g. food, clothing, shelter).
The instrumental Marxism had tended to portray the capitalist elite as an omniscient few who knew
everything and always pulled the strings exactly at the right moment to ensure their interests were
• It maintains that social conflict is a matter of social dynamics of a particular system.
Theory in Context: The Turmoil of the 1960s
• Three factors explain the rise of conflict theory:
1. The impact of the war in Vietnam on American society
2. The growth of the counterculture
3. The rising political protest over discrimination and the use of the police power of the state to
suppress political dissent • By the 1960s, criminological conflict theory came into its own
• Conflict theory highlighted the newly revealed patterns of social division and questioned the legitimacy
of the motives, strategies, and the tactics of those in power.
• Marxism takes a strong hold once other theories came out.
Varieties of Conflict Theory
• Four factors behind the shift to new conflict theory:
1. There was a profound scepticism toward any theory that traced crime to something about the
2. There was marked shift from the assumption that the inadequacies of the CJS were traced to
be incompetent or corrupt ind