Evaluate the Usefulness of Marxist Theory to Our Understanding of Crime and Deviance

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Marxist explanations of crime and deviance, like their work on other areas like the family and education, rest on an economic and structural analysis of society that sees a class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. This struggle comprises the attempts by the proletariat to free themselves from the domination of the bourgeoisie as they seek to take over the means of production.

David Gordon argues that crime is an inevitable product of capitalism and the inequality that it generates. He argues that inequalities in wealth and income create poverty and homelessness for the working class and crime is a rational response to these problems. This idea is supported by research which shows property crime rising during recession. Gordon suggests capitalism encourages values such as greed and materialism which are conducive to all classes committing crime. Such values promote non-economic crimes such as violence, rape, child abuse, vandalism and hooliganism because inequalities in wealth and power lead to frustration, hostility, envy and alienation for some members of the working class who may commit crime in an attempt to retrieve power and status. This theory argues that it is surprising that there is not more working class crime.

The idea explained is one of continual conflict and of crime being a continuation or extension of the class battle. However, critics point out that such a view is a bit sweeping, and that the whole of the working class isn’t in revolt or criminal. To see all crime as a rebellion against the system ignores individual motivation, choice and the fact that many people do choose not to break the law; indeed the majority are law abiding. This point was later took up by the New Left Realists, Taylor and Young, who tried to offer a neo-Marxist analysis which allowed for the fact that people, criminal or otherwise, do make choices and…...

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