Chapter 9

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Woodsworth College Courses
Jim Davies

Criminology in Canada: Chapter 9: Social Conflict Theory - Those who view crime as a function of social and economic conflict are referred to as the conflict, critical, Marxist, or radical criminologists o Explain crime within economic and social contexts and to express the connections among social class, crime and social control o Crime as the outcome of class struggle - Reject that law is designed to maintain a tranquil and fair society o Criminals are simply violent and predatory o Crimes are considered to be racism, sexism, imperialism, unsafe working conditions, inadequate childcare, substandard housing, pollution of the environment, and war - Conflict theory: sees criminal behavior as caused by economic inequality, and criminal law defined by those in power Marxist Thought Productive Forces and Productive Relations - Believed economic conditions of capitalism had put workers at the mercy of their capitalist employers - 2 components to production 1. Productive forces, which include technology, energy source, and material resources 2. Relations of production, which exist among the people producing goods and services - Believed that societies change through slow evolution or sudden violence because of contradictions or conflicts present in a society o Not able to change, destabilize society, social change Marx on Crime - Crime as a product of law enforcement policies akin to a labeling process theory - Working class people commit crime because their choice is a slow death of starvation or a speedy one at the hands of the law Developing a Social Conflict Theory of Crime Willem Bonger - Society, have and have not groups - Ruling class and an inferior class, penal laws serves the will of the ruling class - Crimes are considered to be antisocial acts because they are harmful to those who have the power at their command to control society - The legal system discriminates the poor, and defends the rich - Proletariat are deprived of the materials that are monopolized by the bourgeoisie, thus more likely to violate the law Ralf Dahrendof - Modern society is organized into imperatively coordinated associations 1. Those who possess authority and use it for social domination 2. Those who lack authority and are dominated - Unified conflict theory of human behavior o Every society is at every point subject to processes of change; social change is everywhere o Every society displays at every point dissent and conflict; social conflict is everywhere o Every element is a society renders a contribution to its disintegration and change o Every society is based on the coercion of some of its members by others George Vold - Laws are created by politically oriented groups who seek the governments assistance to help them defend their rights and protect their interests - Criminal acts are a consequence of direct contact between forces struggling to control society Modern Conflict Theory - Self-reports studies suggested that crime and delinquent were much more evenly distributed through the social structure than shown by the official statistics - Justice system as a mechanism to control the lower class and maintain the status quo, rather than as the means of dispensing fair and even handed justice - Research and scholarship directed to: 1. Identifying “real” crimes in society 2. Evaluating how the criminal law is used as a mechanism of social control 3. Turning the attention of citizens to the inequities in society Conflict Criminology - Describe how the control od the political and economic system affects the administration of criminal justice, show how justice in society is skewed so that those who deserve to be punished the most are actually punished the least, those that commit relatively minor and out of economic necessity receive the stricter sanctions Power Relations - Unequal distribution of power creates conflict - People use power to shape public opinion to meet their personal interests The Social Reality of Crime - Social reality of crime: Quinney’s conflict theory regarding the interrelationships between power, society and criminality - Criminal definitions are based on 1. Changing social conditions 2. Emerging interests 3. Increasing demand that political, economic, and religious interest be protected 4. Changing conceptions of public interest - Criminal definitions are constantly changing set of concepts that mirror the political organization of society - Criminals are people who have come up short in the struggle for success and are seeking alternative means of achieving wealth, status or survival Norm Resistance - Social conflict is inevitable when authorities in society are in conflict with those who are controlled by, but have little ability to control, the law - Norm resistance: the interaction between authorities and subjects that eventually produces open conflict between the two groups o Authorities and subjects are both committed to opposing cultural norms o People with group support will be resistant to authority or change o Assessing the strengths, weaknesses of opponents helps avoid conflict with authorities Research on Conflict Theory - Dangerous classes: personal characteristics (being single, young, urban and male) that can result in harsher treatment in the criminal justice system - Aboriginals are more likely to be denied bail, to be subjected to pretrial detention, and to plead guilty without knowing the consequences of doing so - Blacks were more likely to be stopped by police, whites more likely to receive bail - Conflict theorists show that the criminal justice system is quick to take action when the victim of crime is wealthy, white and male but is uninterested when the victim is poor, a member of a minority group and female, indicating how power position affects justice Analysis of Conflict Theory - Identify power relations in society and their role in promoting criminal behavior - Reject the view that the law represents the values of the majority of that legal codes create a just society and criminals are simple predators - Disagree, instead that crime is a matter of rational choice made by offenders motivated more by greed and selfishness than by poverty and hopelessness Marist Criminology - Poor commit street crimes: rape, murder, theft and mugging - Middle class: cheat on taxes, engage in petty corporate crime - Laws regulating corporate crime are window dressing deigned to create the impression that the justice system is fair Fundamentals of Marxist Criminology - Ignore formal theory construction, heavy emphasis on empirical value-free testing arguing that criminological scholarship should have a political and ideological basis - Leftist criminologists see the crime as being designed to protect the power and position of the upper classes at the expense of the poor - Capitalism produced a relatively high level of crime and violence 1. Each society will produce its own types and amounts of crime 2. Each society will have its own distinctive ways of dealing with criminal behavior 3. Each society gets the amount and type of crime that it deserves - Criminality is a function of the social and economic organization of society - To control crime and reduce criminality is to end the social conditions that promote crime Economic Structure and Surplus Value - Relationship between crime and the ownership and control of private property in a capitalist society - Social conflict is fundamentally related to the historical and social distribution of productive private property and surplus value (profit) - Surplus value: the laboring classes produce wealth that far exceeds their wages and goes to the capitalist class as profits - Once people are marginalized, commitment to the system declines, producing another criminogenic force: a weakened bond to society Instrumental Marxism - Criminal law and criminal justice system as an instrument for controlling the poor - How law in capitalist society works to preserve ruling class power o Society is based on an advanced capitalist economy o The state is organized to serve the interests of the dominant economic class o The criminal law is a state instrument used to maintain the existing social and economic order o Crime control occurs through institutions established and administered by the elite class o Contradictions in capitalism require that lower classes remain oppressed by the legal system o The collapse of capitalism and creation of a society based on socialism will solve crime Concepts of Instrumental Marxism - Defines the state, law and the ruling class as a single entity - Shaped by e
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