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SOCIOLOGY
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What is the Marxist perspective of crime?

Marxism is a theory which is critical of unequal class relations under capitalism. Marxism argues that working class criminals committing petty crimes are often treated more harshly than middle or upper class offenders. This is because the upper class have economic, social and cultural power, which means they are less likely to be regarded as guilty, and are not the targets of policing. As a result, it appears that working class people commit more crime, however this is not the case. Indeed, Marxists argue that crimes committed by professionals, business owners and those in high brow positions (what is known as “white collar crime”) go undetected. Neo-Marxists argue that crime may also be the result of working class tensions and dissatisfaction. The working class (proletariat) may be driven to commit crimes as rebellion against the capitalist state.

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Mabelle House
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Marxist theory is critical of Capitalism and those belonging to the ruling capitalist class (the “bourgeoisie”). Under Marxism, capitalism is regarded as an economic system which oppresses the working class (the “proletariat”)and prevents them from revolting against the unjust social order. Marx discussed that as the bourgeoisie seek to make as much profit as possible, they exploit their proletariat workers through low pay, longer hours, and reducing their rights, etc. Furthermore, workers remain compliant under these exploitative conditions because they are pacified and given a false idea that they are treated fairly. This takes place via various “ideological state apparatuses” such as in the education system, whereby children are taught to become compliant to authority (I.e. listening to teachers, wearing uniform, etc.). For more detailed information on Marxism, please request a tutoring session with me.

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Mabelle House
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Marxists essentially see crime and deviance as defined by the ruling class and used as a means of social control – if you don’t conform then you will be punished. Institutions such as the police, the justice system, prisons and schools, the family and religion are there to encourage you to conform. They argue that white collar crimes (which tend to be committed by the more powerful in society) are ignored, while crimes committed by the less powerful in society such as burglary and street crime are focussed on and seen as more serious. Marxists would also argue that different social classes are policed differently, with the working class heavily policed in the expectation that they will be more criminal and therefore raising the chances of their crimes being detected. As a side note, Marxists argue that a socialist society with communal ownership of the means of production would have much less crime. The implication of such views is that the solution to the "crime problem" is to engage in a socialist revolution. A different issue emerges by applying Marx's theory of alienation.

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David Mageller
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