“Crime is social in origin and a normal response to prevailing cultural conditions” (Willem Bonger) Marxist believe that reason that it is the ruling class that is responsible for criminalising the working classes, which goes directly against what official statistics and Functionalism believe. However, Marxism and Functionalism do share a similarity in that both believe structures and institutions of society play a very important role in determining how people behave, criminally or otherwise.
Marxist sociologists argue that it is the nature of exploitative economic systems that capitalist societies have in place that is primarily responsible for crime. This is because the bourgeoisie and ruling classes oppress and exploit the working classes, which drives them into poverty. As the workers try to end exploitation whilst the owners of the means of production aim to keep the system to maintain profits. Most Marxists agree that crime is the result of poverty created through this system, for example people steal because they are materially deprived which is a result of low wages being paid by the ruling classes. This is a reason Marxists would give for the over-representation of the working classes in official crime statistics. On the other hand, Functionalism may argue that crime is not caused by material deprivation but by poor socialisation.
Another Marxist explanation is that it isn’t just the material deprivation caused by “wage slavery” but that capitalism generates crime due to the selfish mindset it creates. These feelings create crime as people put themselves first and in this world of advertising and consumerist culture. Chambliss states that the capitalist system fosters crime at all levels within the system. He also states that crime is built in to capitalist societies and from the boardroom to factory we are motivated by an insatiable desire for wealth. Marxist argued people within the capitalism develop commodity fetishism. Under capitalism everything that can be exchanged at a value becomes a commodity, even labour. An obsession with products where products are the goal in life, not human relationships.
Another explanation is that the law defends the interest of the ruling class. (chambliss 1976). Also the law protects private property. Also Marxist believe that the media is controlled by the rich people. Politicians from ruling class backgrounds are also influenced by them. Laws are made by the state, which represent the interests of the ruling class, this forms the basis of a theory for widespread crime and selective law enforcement; crime occurs right through society, but only poor criminals receive harsher punishments. However fuctionalists argue that law benefits everyone and it represent interests other than the rich. Feminist would argue that the law benefits men.
Marxist state white collar crimes, a crime committed by a person of responsibility and high social status in the course of his occupation. (Edwin Sutherland) There are two main types of white collar crime: crimes committed by professionals, or executives in the course of there occupation (occupational crime) and crimes committed b corporations or businesses, including pollution, fraud or corporate manslaughter. (corporate crimes).
By focusing on street crimes many sociologists ignore crimes of the powerful. Marxist suggest that white collar crimes are neglected due to blue collar crimes as they are more obvious and straight forward so police are less active in investigating white collar crimes. Government agencies often have little power to make a difference if they find wrong doing by white collar workers they often apply fines rather than a sentence.
It can be argued that Marxists ignore individual motivation of crime and over concentrate on the nature of capitalism and how economic factors force people to act in certain ways.