Conflict theory and Marxist criminology
2. Marx: Basic concepts
3. Instrumental Marxism
4. Structural Marxism
5. Criticism of the Marxist approach
6. Implications of the Marxist approach
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
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
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
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
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.
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