Using the material from item A and elsewhere assess the usefulness of Marxist approaches to an understanding of crime and deviance. (21 marks) Marxist approaches can be useful to help us understand crime and deviance. Marxists theory adopts the belief that the ruling class is responsible for societies. They think crime is systematically generated by the structure of capitalist society. Marxists believe that society is divided into two classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
The bourgeoisie promote values such as individualism and competition, and some may argue that it is these values that promote crime amongst the typical offenders, the proletariat. Traditional Marxism attempts to explain the relationship between the two aforementioned classes, with writers such as William Chambliss concluding that the best way to understand crime and deviance is to analyse the process by which the ruling class exploit their subordinates , through means such as the media , ideology and false-class consciousness, to name a few mediums.
An example of this, again the result of a study conducted by Chambliss. Marxist say that the rich and powerful decide what is considered deviant and criminal in society to suit their own needs and interests. This supports item A as it states 'a set of rules laid down by the state in the interest of the ruling class'. This is reflected in crime statistics; the most common offenders are young, black males between the ages of 15-21. A counter argument to this is the idea of Strain Theory developed by Robert Merton.
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Traditional Marxism argues that it is increased aggression and individualistic nature of the capitalist society that inspires individuals to commit crime, however Merton comments that it is Strain between goals and the legitimate means to achieve these goals that cause an individual to commit crime. It is also noted that the Traditional Marxist theory only looks at the cause of crime, and not the effect that the crime has on the society. Another sociological theory that attempts to provide an explanation for crime and deviance is the Marxist subcultural theory.
This Marxist theory of crime goes on to explain it is the emergence of youth subculture that result in crime. It is argued that only the groups on the margins of society are the few that are not bound by the ideology and economic importance of the ruling class, and due to this ‘immunity’, they are able to somewhat resist the influence of the capitalist society. The largest group which display this resistance are typically the working class youth.
According to Brake, amongst other writers, the resistance which is provided by the working class youth is expressed through youth subcultures. A subculture is defined as a group within a society who adopt alternative norms and values to mainstream society. The youth part of these subcultures will wear different, or rather radical clothing compared to mainstream society, and their language, among other attitudes and formalities, will show a contempt for the capitalist system of which they are on the fringes of.
It is also said by Brake, that this resistance is ‘magical’, magical in the sense that this resistance does nothing to solve the problems that are experienced by the youth subcultures, but it still continues, because each generation, it is said that the capitalist society produces vast wealth inequalities and opportunities, said by Althusser. Stan Cohen, on the other noted that this analysis of working class youth subcultures are based on analysis, and as such, are biased, due to these writers looking to prove that subcultures are a direct attack on the capitalist society.
A criticism that Cohen provided is that there are many ways in which an individual can interpret the actions of a subculture, the Marxist view on this just so happens to be one of the many views in circulation. Blackman also notes that the concentration on youth subcultures and resistance ignores the fact that many subcultures are formed with an emphasis on, gender, sexuality, and also ‘intelligence’.
Youth subcultures exist everywhere, in also institutions, for example in education. There are some who specifically desire to adhere to the rules of the education, and follow direction as they are given, and there are those who wish to resist because they find schoolwork autonomous, (the ‘earoles’ and the ‘lads’ - ), which is taken from the interpretivist view of education.
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