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York University
CRIM 2650
Anita Lam

Conflict theory and Marxist criminology Lecture Overview 1. Recap 2. Marx: Basic concepts 3. Instrumental Marxism 4. Structural Marxism 5. Criticism of the Marxist approach 6. Implications of the Marxist approach Recap  Critical theory: questions underlying assumptions and conditions of knowledge –if we take a Marxist approach it is a critical theoretical because it interrogates the economic conditions of what we know and what we can know  Administrative criminology (aka mainstream criminology): policy-oriented research –branch in criminology that seeks to inform the management and control of crime and criminals through policy-oriented research. Research that attempts to improve the states capacity to govern and police its various subjects. Marxist criminologists have a problem with this –admin/mainstream criminology is designed to target the weak of society and accuse them of being complicit with the state and ruling class by providing them with better knowledge and policy implications that will be used to control the lower classes.  Context of conflict theory: 1960s and early 1970 – moral panics in this time period and political protests, so conflict theory flourished bc it provided a systemic basis for challenging the legitimacy of the government and helped challenge the legitimacy of the governments creation and application of laws. Middle class were as likely to engage in deviant behaviour as the lower class. This finding was not recorded in police stats. Lower classes are more recorded because of discriminatory reasons. The cjs can be a mechanisms for controlling the lower classes and for maintaining the status quo.  Vs. individual as unit of analysis (e.g. bad apple theory) –conflict theorists do not like individual theories because they ignore the structural qualities of crime and in society that make crime inevitable. Bad apple theory—1 bad apple ruins it for the rest of them. This is problematic because a few bad apples cannot account for the whole barrel. Common objectives of conflict criminology (who controls the system)  Describe how the control of the political and economic system affects the administration of justice—for Marxists conflicts this include showing that justice in society is skewed—those who deserve to be punished the most, end up being punished the least. For example white collar criminals in relation to street criminals.  Show how the definitions of crime favour those who control the justice system— outgrowth of labelling theory. Provides us with a new starting premise which was that crime is relative in society and needs to be defined. So criminologists should spend their time defining crime and labelling certain groups in society as criminal or deviant. Labelling theoriests have been accused of being relatively apolitical. Conflict theorists do want this revolution though, and they want to change the world.  Examine the role of conflict in society: power and politics –assumes conflict is inevitable in society because it is produced by unequal distributions of power in society. Conflict is rooted in the competition for power. Since conflict is inevitable it can be contrasted with:  Vs. consensus view of crime: Beccaria/social contract theory and Durkheim (collective conscience) –consensus in society so society is held together by moral or common interest consensus. For becarria, who was a utilitarian, the law reflected the consensus of the majority bc laws ought to provide the greatest happiness for the greatest people. Durkheim also works under this, laws are also a reflection of the values of majority because laws are a reflection of the collective conscience.  Vs. interactionist view of crime: interpretation of reality based on meanings and symbols we have learned from others – symbolic interactionism: multiple realities and people would react according to their interpretation of reality. According to the meanings that they have attributed to other people and events. It suggests that we define crime according to the opinions not of the majority, but to the preferences of a few people called Moral entrepreneurs.  moral entrepreneurs—because of their economic position, they can impose right and wrong on the rest of us. Conflict view shares this same premise. Crime is something that offends these powerful people. Conflict theorists say the definition of crime is controlled by power, wealth by society. Marx: Basic concepts  Economic forces –development of capitalist system has detrimental effects on society. They would turn workers into a dehumanized mass. All our social relations and how we relate to each other are bound up with a societies economic forces. Bc for him, economic forces structure social relations. Economic forces concentrates on the mode of production.  Mode of production –the way people make their living and produce material goods. When the mode of production changes, we will see a change in how we relate to each other as members of that society. 2 key components:  Means of production: material things used to produce goods and services (ex: land) IN CONTRAST  Social relations of production: people’s ability to secure goods and services, relationship between owner and labourer (who owns the means of production and who owns none of the means of production but only their labour power)  Capitalist mode: class that owned the means of production (bourgeoisie), and the others that didn’t own, all they had was their labour power to sell (proletariat)  Capitalist class/bourgeoisie –maximize profit  Working class/proletariat –maximize wages  Inevitable class struggle between the two classes.  Under capitalism, class interests are mutually exclusive: exploitation and perpetual class struggle  Communism – Solution for marx: we change the mode of production. His solution was communism –a society in which there is only one class. This entire class would own the means of production. There will be no unequal distribution, so we are all owners. But in order to achieve this new mode of production, he said we needed a revolution, and it needed to be organised against the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Structural determinism  Base-superstructure model –in a capitalist society, the superstructure would legitimate ideas that allowed for capitalism to flourish, that maximizing profit is a good thing. When we talk about ideology we do it in a particular way. Ideology in a apolitical sense refers to the study of origin of ideas. In the Marxist sense, ideology refers to the exploitation of class rule in the guides of fairness and equity. Law and media in a cap society are used to perpetuate dominant ideologies that would serve the dominant class. Socialism= between communism and capitalism. Where the goal is to have equal ownership of the resource
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