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Theories of Crime

Essay by   •  February 13, 2011  •  Essay  •  2,302 Words (10 Pages)  •  1,272 Views

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A) I would like you to take your book's presentation of Karl Marx and discuss his basic ideas and what the people who interpret Marx had to say about him, especially as it pertains to the topic of crime.

Karl Marx was a radical philosopher who believed a capitalist society is structured to allow the rich to flourish while the majority of people are left solely to survive and struggle to make a living. How a person makes a living, their production process, depends on their environment, their knowledge, and the skills they have developed. These attributes are referred to as their means of production. Social relationships or relations of production are directly related to one's production process. Marx also found societies with social classes to be unjust. He felt strongly that inequality in capitalism exists because the capitalistic classes have varied and unequal resources available to assist with their development. These resources lead the rich to flourish while the poor struggle to survive.

Although Marx didn't make law or crime his primary focus many socio-legal experts have analyzed Marx's work to relate his writings to the topic of crime. The Marxist paradigm focuses primarily on how law is created and how it operates. With the class separation in a capitalist economy Marx believed the law and legal system to be unjust. Similar to his social theory explaining how the rich use their power to exploit the poor, Marx believed the legal system in a capitalist society will use its power to sustain inequality to preserve capitalism. Rather than serving the interests of the social classes the legal system preserves capitalism. According to structural Marxists, William Chambliss and Robert Seidman, law is an attempt to resolve a crisis caused by the contradictions of capitalism. Like Marx, they believe what is at stake during such a crisis isn't the interests of the ruling class but the preservation of capitalism.

Marx wasn't focused on defining crime as he viewed crime to be self-evident. He coined the term lumpenproletariat as the criminal class of the human population. This class consisted of criminals, vagrants, and the unemployed, who lacked class consciousness. Marx viewed the criminal class as an enemy of the working class and a group that could not be trusted.

Marx's primitive rebellion thesis takes the position that crime is a form of revolt against the ruling class and the capitalist system. This thesis, however, wasn't widely accepted by the radical criminologists. Barry Krisberg, in particular, argued that crime must be studied within "the broader quest for social justice". The underprivileged don't necessarily commit more crimes than the upper class but they are more likely to be treated unfairly by the criminal justice system.

Marx viewed crime as a result of demoralization from living within a capitalist system as a member of the lower class. Capitalism creates competition and in a capitalist society people are viewed to be successful by the material possessions they secure. Members of the lower class turn to crime to amass material possessions. Marx believed this behavior is a response to dehumanizing conditions of the lower class. Richard Quinney, a radical criminologist, believed a class division exists between those who rule and those who are ruled. The majority of the population is a subordinate class while the ruling class is in the minority but control the means of production. This ruling class makes the decisions that affect the lives of the subordinate class.

Marx disagreed with deterrence and believed the only way to eliminate crime is to change the social structure and eliminate capitalism altogether. He felt strongly that there would be no crime in a classless society. Quinney was also an advocate of democratic socialism. In a socialistic society everyone has equal access to material and cultural resources which frees people from the demoralization of living within a capitalist system.

B) Now take your film on Ireland and apply Marx. Explore the notion of conflict as a social event. Interpret some of the issues you happen to see in the movie with some of the working assumptions associated with a Marxist perspective.

The film on Northern Ireland told of crimes committed by a government. The film detailed the Catholic/Nationalist struggle for basic civil rights. Marx believed the lower class are born into social and environmental conditions that deprive them. Prior to the civil rights movement the Catholics born in Northern Ireland were forced to either give in to the Unionist tyranny or get out of Northern Ireland.

Richard Quinney, a Marxist criminologist, believed a class division exists between those who rule and those who are ruled. Although they comprised the majority of the population, the Catholics were the subordinate class while the Protestants were the ruling class. The Protestants controlled the means of production because they owned most of the property in Northern Ireland which translated into votes and power. As the superior class the Protestants controlled housing, jobs and the voting rights in Northern Ireland.

The Catholics were living in squalor. Homes were overcrowded and were without the basic amenities such as running water and beds to sleep on. Given the fact that the Protestants were in control of the capitalist mode of production, the laws and legal system reflected inequality which favored of the Protestants.

The film details a number of non-violent marches and sit-ins where the Catholics attempted to bring attention to the inequality and social injustice in Northern Ireland. Although Marx's primitive rebellion thesis was rejected by many, it appears to be very relevant in relation to government crime versus petty crime. The Catholics in Northern Ireland aggressively revolted against the Protestants and their unjust capitalist system.

On New Years Day 1969 while the Catholics were marching from Belfast to Derry they were attacked by Protestant Loyalists. The Loyalists struck the marchers with pipes and sticks riddled with nails. What surprised the Catholic Nationalists was the fact that British police turned their heads to the atrocity. If anything, the violent behavior of the Loyalists only increased the visibility of the civil rights movement. The Catholics staged a march during the Unionist's marching season where the Protestants took part in triumphalist parades, mostly celebrating Protestant victories over Catholics. This march was stopped by the Unionists and led to what was called The Battle of Bogside. Bernadette Devlin, a prominent voice of the Nationalists, said

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