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Critical Criminology- Carolyn Brooks.docx

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Zachary Levinsky

Critical Criminology: Rejecting Short-term Solutions to Crime Carolyn Brooks Introduction  Advocates of critical criminology have based their approach on intensive critique not just of mainstream criminology but also of state institutions that surround the discipline (i.e. law, schools, criminal justice system)  Critical criminology draws from Marxist theory and protest movements of its early years but has since broaden to included analyses from feminism, left realism, peacemaking, postmodernism etc.  Intellectual posture around which a variety of criminological endeavors have been pursued  Critical criminology offers diverse solutions to problems of crime: from redefining crime to abolishing prisons, from challenging state institutions to calling restorative justice or transformative justice  Share desire to look not at individual flaws as means of explaining criminal behaviour but at society problems that create, breed and sustain criminals  Critical criminology rejects tougher laws and incarceration as short-term solutions and focuses on fundamental socio-economic and cultural change (complete structural transformation)  Bring into view decisions around what acts are defined as “crime” and ways in which different groups of people are processed differently through criminal justice system o Tends to define poor people and “street” crimes as criminal and punishes these offences more readily than it does “suite” crimes of corporations and elites  Power and inequalities of race, class and gender play central role in understanding of crime and criminal justice system The Boom of Critical Criminology  Emerging partially in response to labeling and social interactionist perspectives, the criminal perspective grew mostly out of political protests of power-war period  Continuing inequality fueled anger that led to civil rights protect sin 1960s (between Blacks and Whites)  Prisoners began to see themselves as victims of racism, interpreting their confinement as part of political manipulation of oppressive state (disproportionate number of Blacks incarcerated)  Struggles behind bars and police brutality and general struggles of blacks in U.S. gave impetus to nascent criminal criminological perspectives  Critical criminology began to identify lack of jobs, victimization, racism and classism as real sources of criminal activity  Political hierarchy remained unchallenged and way to hide injustices facing marginalized populations Marxist Criminology  Focus attention on political, social and economic structures of capitalism  Argue that fundamental inequality in capitalist society gives rise to individualistic and completive struggles for material gains  Crime is partly a rational response to competitive and individualistic struggle for material wealth in society and encourages conflict between rich and the poor  Poverty not only factor that causes crime, alienating and exploitive nature of capitalism itself leads to crime o Link between poverty and crime not only that those in dire need are driven to anti-social acts, but also related to influence of consumer culture that perpetuates ideology of individualism and competition o Violent crimes arises out of brutal conditions that many poor people are forced to live in  Capitalist society is criminogenic, fundamentally structrured to encourage all members of society to take up anti-social behaviour  Capitalist institutions foster greed, selfishness, and unlimited desires  Even the well-off are encouraged to find ways to acquire more material goods  Willem Bonger- was the first to apply Marxism to criminology o Argued that profit motive inherent in capitalism induces greed and selfishness, creating “egoistic tendencies” o Under capitalism everyone was necessarily subjected to workings of greed and egoism o With law controlled by ruling class, actions most likely to be defined as “crime” are those of the working class and given inequality characteristic of capitalist societies the most obvious crimes will occur among marginalized people  Ian Taylor, Paul Walton and Jock Young- argued that crime logical response to oppression and exploitation of working-class marginalized people under capitalism o Crime of accommodation (individual crimes) signs of survival in class struggle; often means of survival in competitive capatalist system with aim of having material wealth or status o Crimes of rebellion responses to inequality of capitalist system  Radical Marxist criminologists challenge traditional definition of criminal behavoiur as conduct that violated criminal code o Serving interests of elite, because for Marxists the real crime is behavoiur that violates human rights, including some actions that violate criminal codes like murder or robbery Marxism and Criminal Justice System as Ideology  Marxism concerned with role of criminal justice as means of controlling marginalized people in society  Criminal justice system functions in part as idea that society must fear the poor and marginalized as dangerous class  Poor, marginalized people fill our jails doesn’t mean they are the people who cause the most harm to society o Their overrepresentation in justice system means that law works to define behaviour of marginalized as criminal and to weed out the rich at every step of the way  In about the time it takes for two on the crime clock, more than six workers died at work (trying to make a living)- o Criminal law failed to emphasize dangerous corporate actions as criminal and governments also deregulating corporate misbehavior o Many of the activities of corporations and elites pose grave threats to community and individual's well-being yet the individuals and organizations response not dealt with through justice system  Instrumentalist Marxism and Structuralist Marxism argue that state institutions, including law and criminal justice, protect long-term interests of capitalist class Instrumentalist Marxism  Defn: criminal justice system and defintions of crime ensure power of dominant class  Instrumentalist Marxist argue that the elite class is directly involved in activity of sate, including criminal justice system  Criminal justice system (law, courts, police and criminal justice, and definitions of crime) contains mechanisms to ensure power of dominant class o Elite have power to impose morality on rest of society in form of what they define as illegal or criminal behavoiur o Instrumentalists say that people who work in system directly supporting their own class o Those in government and justice decision-making positions have class backgrounds, education, financial goals and attitudes similar to corporate elite o Elite class immune from criminal sanction of any kind o Poor arrested more and punished more-sensitizes up to the class bias in workings of criminal justice  Marxist position maintains that crime occurs as result of class conflict o Working class alienated from and develops hostility for system that encloses them and prevents them for shaping social order or benefiting from fruits of their labour  Find this situation intolerable and take action, acts of rebellion  Working class and marginalized blamed for problems of system; their defined pathology and criminality deflect attention away from structural injustices and makeup of system itself Structuralist Marxism  Emphasize that although state institutions, including criminal justice system, benefit the elite class, to appear fair and just these institutions must still maintain degree of relative autonomy from all classes  Argue that state has two main functions: accumulation and legitimation o Accumulation- requires state ensure that appropriate conditions are in place for generating wealth and profit o Legitimation- ensures that most citizens believe that the state is fair and just and has loyalty of its citizens  State may work in short-term interests of working-class as long as id doesn’t interfere with hierarchy of power relations  Organized resistance of working class creates political movements that force law to work in interests of all people (helps explain why law and state can transcend particular interests of capitalists)  Extends instrumentalist position that law and criminal justice system are coercive to include more in-depth discussion of ideology o Criminal justice system functions a ideological tool, maintaining status quo over long term and helping to maintain domination of elite class o Hegemony- (Antonio Gramsci) process by which elite try to make their ideas, knowledge, and values appear
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