For Marxists, crime is inevitable in a Capitalist society as Capitalism is criminogenic- it causes crime. Capitalism is based on the exploitation of the working class therefore Marxists suggest that this may give rise to crime as crime may be be the only way for the working class to survive particularly if they live in poverty. Furthermore a lack of control over their lives and a feeling of alienation may lead to frustration and aggression resulting in individuals turning to crime. This can therefore explain non-utilitarian crime such as violence and vandalism. Another idea presented by Marxists is that crime may be the only way for the working class to obtain the consumer goods that are encouraged by the capitalist advertising which ultimately can result in utilitarian crimes such as theft and burglary.
However as we know, crime is not just limited to the working class. Capitalist society is very competitive among capitalists so the need to win at all costs or go out of business, along with the desire for self-enrichment, encourages capitalists to commit white collar crime and corporate crime such as tax evasion.
David Gordon (1976) argues that crime is a rational response to the capitalist system which is why it is found amongst all classes, despite the fact that official statistics appear to make it look as though it is a largely working class phenomenon.
Dissimilarly to Functionalists, who see the law as reflecting a valued consensus and representing society’s needs as a whole, Marxists see law-making as serving the needs of the ruling class. Chambliss argues that laws to protect private property are the cornerstone of the capitalist economy. He illustrates this with the case of the introduction of the English law system into Britain’s East African colonies. The economic interests of Britain lay in the colonies’ tea, coffee and various other plantations, which evidently needed a plentiful supply of labour. The British introduced a tax payable in cash, and non-payment of said tax was a punishable criminal offence. In order for the tax to be paid, individuals had to work on the plantations. This law therefore served the interest of the capitalist plantation owners.
In addition, it is believed by Marxists that the ruling class have power to prevent the introduction of laws which would threaten their interests. An example of this is shown through the lack of laws which seriously challenge the unequal distribution of wealth. Snider puts forward the idea that the capitalist state is reluctant to pass laws that regulate the activities of businesses or threaten their profitability.
Furthermore, the law, crime and criminals are also said to perform an ideological function for Capitalism. There are occasionally laws that are passed which appear to be for the benefit of the working class such as health and safety laws. However, Pearce argues that these laws benefit the ruling class also, for example by keeping worker fit for labour and appearing to have a caring face, their is a false consciousness created amongst workers as they don't realise their exploitation.
Equally important is the view of the Neo-Marxists, in particular Taylor et al who argue that traditional Marxism is deterministic. For example, it sees workers as driven to commit crime out of an economic necessity, but Taylor et al reject this idea, along with theories that claim crime is caused by other external factors such as anomie, subcultures or labelling, claiming that these theories neglect the idea of free will. They see crime as voluntaristic, a conscious choice of the criminal that performs the act. Additionally they claim that often crime has a political motive, such as to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor, this could be referred to as ‘Robin Hood’ crime. Criminals are not puppets of a Capitalist society but in fact deliberately trying to change…