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CHAPTER 13.docx

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SOC 2700
Norman Dubeski

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Vold’s Theoretical Criminology Chapter 13: Marxist and Postmodern Criminology - The term critical criminology has been described as an umbrella designation for a series of evolving, emerging perspectives that are characterized particularly by an argument that it is impossible to separate values from the research agenda, and by a need to advance a progressive agenda favouring dis-privileged peoples. - Critical theories share the view that inequality in power is causally related to the problem of crime. But conflict theory largely ignores the sources of origins of power, while critical perspectives make specific arguments on that issue. - Marxist theories generally locate power in ownership of the means of production, while postmodern theories locate it in the control over language systems. - Both perspectives imply that the crime problem can be solved only if power arrangements are changed. - Getting to the root of the problem of crime according to these perspectives requires social change at the most fundamental level. Ultimately the focus is on ideals, such as social justice and attempt to determine how contemporary societies can achieve these ideals. (the focus is on what ought to be, not what is) Overview of Marx’s Theory - Karl Marx wrote in the immediate aftermath of the massive social changes that were brought about by the Industrial Revolution.. - His theory linked economic development to social, political, and historical change, but it did not deal with the problem of crime in any significant way. - The development of material forces of production is relatively continuous throughout history, since it consists of the development of technology, skills, and so forth. The social relations of production however tend to freeze into particular patterns for long periods. - Marx argued capitalist societies tend to [polarize into two conflicting groups o One group consists of people who own an increasing portion of the property in the society. Over time this group gets smaller and richer o The other group consists of employed and unemployed wage labourers, which keeps getting larger and poorer. o He called the growing and condensing aspect of these groups the “contradiction” in capitalism; as it becomes more extreme, it acts as a great hindrance to the further development of the material forces of production. Marx on Crime, Criminal Law, and Criminal Justice - Marx didn’t focus on crime, but he addressed it in certain passages - In one of the passages, Marx argued that it was essential to human nature that people be productive in life and in work, but in industrialized capitalist societies, the large numbers of unemployed and underemployed people are unproductive and demoralized; thus they are subject to all forms of crime and vice o Marx called these people the LUMPENPROLETARIAT - In another passage Marx argued against the classical philosophy, dominant in his day, that all people freely and equally joined in a social contract for the common good and that the law represented a consensus of the general will. - Marx did not see crime as the wilful violation of the common good, but as the “struggle of the isolated individual against the prevailing conditions” this conclusions is sometimes called Marx’s primitive rebellion thesis, since it implies that crime is a primitive form of rebellion against the dominant social order, one that eventually may develop into conscious revolutionary activity. - Marx later argued in Capital that the economic basis of capitalism rested on a similar theft of the traditional rights of the peasants. - He also argued, the economic basis of capitalism had been established by a theft of the grandest scale imaginable, a theft accomplished through the coercive power of the criminal law. The Emergence of Marxist Criminology - An early Marxist criminologist, Willem Bonger, provided an extensive theory of crime in his book “Criminality and Economic Conditions” in 1916 - Bonger argued that the capitalist economic system encouraged all people to be greedy and selfish and to pursue their own benefits without regard for the welfare of their fellows. - Crime is concentrated in the lower classes because the justice system criminalizes the greed of the poor while it allows legal opportunities for the rich to pursue their selfish desires - He also argued that a socialist society would ultimately eliminate crime because it would promote a concern for the welfare of the whole society and would remove the legal bias that favours the rich. - After the 1920s, Marxist criminology virtually disappeared for a while, but then came back in the 1970s - By the mid-1970s a specifically Marxian criminology began to take shape o This new rigorous Marxist criminology attempts to relate criminal behaviour and crime policies to the political economy of the particular societies in which they occur and it relies primarily on historical and cross cultural
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