Marxist Theory Crime And Deviance


Crime is referred to the behaviour of the individual which breaks the law and punished by the legwith crime and it is referred to the behaviour that is against all values, norms and expectation of the society. There are various sociological theories that explain the reason for the development of crime and deviance. In this assignment, the Marxist theory of crime and deviance is to be critically evaluated to understand the strength and weakness related to the theory in explaining the social phenomenon.


Overview of Marxist Theory of Crime and Deviance

The Marxist Theory of Crime and Deviance informs that the power in the society is held by the Bourgeoisie who are the capitalist class of individual owning most of the wealth in the society. The laws developed which dictates any criminal offence and the legal system indicating crime are developed by the ideological influence of the Bourgeoisie (Rock, 2017, p.23). This means that the Marxist would argue that a legal system dictates a criminal offence is developed by powerful people in the society without involving the ideology of the lower class indicates class difference. According to Marxist, this capitalistic attitude is the one which encourages crime. The theory also informs that the crime executed by the capitalist class is more costly in nature than the street crime and the state practices selective law enforcement (Deflem, 2015, p.37). This indicates the Marxist theory mainly blames capitalism for the rise of crime and deviance.

The strength of Marxist theory of crime and deviance is that it argues law is not an equal body but it is developed to protect the capitalist who is ruling class to make them remain in power and be rich in the society (McCaghy et al. 2016, p.88). This is evident as the harmful acts such as colonialism, numerous wars and others by the states who are in the capitalist position in the society are not labelled as criminal offence. Moreover, there are no laws developed to take actions against the criminal or deviance acts where huge numbers of people are inappropriately exploited and killed by violating the social norms and legislation. As mentioned by Atiles (2018), colonialism is referred to the practice of acquiring partial or full control of another country. It is done with the motive to occupy the settlers and exploit them as well as the resources present in the country to be exploited for own benefit. In previous times, it was seen that the English who were at a power position than many others colonised various countries where they exploited the rich resources over there and used the settlers for their own benefit but was not punished legally for their acts. Thus, this proves that the Marxist theory was true to explain that capitalistic attitude is mainly behind identifying crime and deviance.

The other strength of Marxist theory is that it has effectively argued and identified through points that commodity fetishism used by the ruling class has raised crime and deviance (Apter, 2018, p.18). This is because it has lead individuals of poorer class to wish for things they do not have or cannot afford to turn them to execute criminal offence to acquire the things. Commodity Fetishism is the collective belief which indicates that it is inevitable and natural for measuring the value of any useful things with money (Winlow and Hall, 2016, p.88). According to this perspective, people are deemed to be powerful in society and given respect if they are rich and have the ability to use luxury commodities. Thus, the people of the lower class that wishes to avail similar status in the society like the rich have oriented to involve in crime to raise money or achieve things that would make them at par with the powerful capitalist people in the society.

The Marxist theory explains that the creation of inequality and poverty by capitalism has raised the increase in crime and deviance (Lynch and Boggess, 2016, p.50). It is evident as the people of the top class who run global organisations are seen to have more than the basic amenities required to live their life effectively and in a peaceful way. This is because they have power as well adequate money to avail daily food, proper living place, achieve education and others (Bridges, 2018, p.32). In contrast to them, the people of the lower class living in the slums are seen hardly to have effective finances to support their health, achieve education to get employment, buy food to properly feed the family and others (Cheong and Wu, 2015, p.210). Thus, this informs that that a huge gap between the rich and the poor is created in the society where the capitalist due to their power and money are able avail the basic needs required to live whereas the poor individuals due to poverty and inequality are experiencing hard time gather resources to lead their life. Thus, the poor to live a better life are breaking the social norms and involving into crime and deviance such as robbery, theft and others to gain financial resources from the society to live their life properly by arranging the basic needs. Therefore, the highlight of this aspect is strength of Marxist theory as it helped to explain and understand the reason behind the rising of crime is inequality in the society.

There are various criticism related to the Marxist theory of crime and deviance which identifies the weak points of the theory. The Feminist argues that Marxist has put too much emphasis on social inequality of the classes and avoided the consideration of inequality in relation to gender that promotes crime and deviance (Policastro, 2015, p.4). This is evident as the Marxist theory avoided to focus on power of the men over women in the society that has driven men to be more involved in crime in comparison to women. It is seen that since men are the key bread earners of the family they are more involved in executing crime and deviance with the aim to gain power and money to arranging basic requirements for the family. This is evident as in 2017-18 it was seen that 4 arrests are made out of 100 women and 22 arrests were made out of 1000 men for criminal offence and deviance (, 2018).

The Functionalist theory criticises the Marxist theory of crime and deviance by informing that crime is committed not as a result of capitalism but it is been developed as a result of breakdown in the shared values and norms (Aronowitz, 2016, p.7). Thus, the functionalism theory changes the Marxist view by saying that crime is functional, inevitable and normal in the society. However, this may not be true as the functionalist theory fails in considering the dysfunctions that exist in the society which motivates crime. Therefore, the criticism is not true that crime is normal or inevitable to the society as it cannot provide proper explanations regarding rise of criminal activities.

The neo-Marxists theory is recently developed and presents the theory of Marxism in a more sophisticated way. This theory critic the traditional Marxist view which indicates that people are involved in crime due to influence of the factors that are not within their control in the sense that crime is committed due to the symbolic act of resistance developed by the public against the capitalist act (Ugwudike, 2015, p.12). This means that they argue crime is not always out of control but within the choice of an individual and may be actions that are motivated through political factors. It may be evident as few people in the society are seen to involve in crime out of personal desired and wish.

Marxist theory was mainly seen to blame capitalism as the key reason behind the promotion of crime and deviance. However, it is seen that not all the capitalistic nations are out of control of crime rates such as Switzerland. This is evident as Switzerland is reported to have lower per capita rate of crime than the US such as in 2017 the homicide rate of crime in Switzerland was 0.3% whereas in the US it was 5.3% even though both being capitalist nations (, 2018;, 2018). Thus, generalising capitalism as the promotion of crime and deviance cannot always be true which makes it a weakness for the Marxist theory to explain the rise of illegal acts and violation of social norms. Dig deeper into Organised Crime and Its Policing with our selection of articles.

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The above discussion informs that Marxist theory of crime and deviance mainly blames capitalism as the reason behind the promotion of them. The strength of the theory is that it has highlighted the promotion of crime and deviance is due to social class inequality, poverty, commodity fetishism and others. However, the weakness of the theory is that it did not focus on the free will, cultural factors, obligations, gender and ethnicity as well as other prominent reason that promotes crime. Moreover, the theory has failed to explain the reason behind many poor people being not involved in crime.


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  • Aronowitz, S., (2016). The crisis in historical materialism: Class, politics and culture in Marxist theory. New York: Springer.
  • Atiles, J., (2018). Frank Pearce and colonial state crimes. Revisiting Crimes of the Powerful: Marxism, Crime and Deviance, p.19.
  • Bittle, S., Snider, L., Tombs, S. and Whyte, D. eds., (2018). Revisiting crimes of the powerful: Marxism, crime and deviance. London: Routledge.
  • Bridges, G.S., (2018). Inequality, crime, and social control. London: Routledge.
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  • McCaghy, C.H., Capron, T.A., Jamieson, J.D. and Carey, S.H.H., (2016). Why Is Certain Behavior Deviant?. London: Routledge.
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