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Overall Evaluation of Marxist Explanations of Crime, Deviance, Social Order and Social Control

AS, A Level, IB
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB, Eduqas, WJEC

Last updated 13 Nov 2017

In terms of some key evaluation points you could make:

Marxist explanations for crime and deviance are accused of being reductionist: they "reduce" everything to economics. Post-modernists, for example, would argue that society is complex and fragmented and that while capitalism and economic class might well influence people's behaviour there are many other equally important influences. Wealth is not the only source of power; class is not the only important identity.

Realist sociologists (left and right) accuse Marxists of presenting criminals as "the real victims" (victims of capitalism). They suggest that Marxists ignore the real victims, and only appear interested in victims of the crimes of the rich.  As previously mentioned, left realists point out that this is particularly ironic because most victims of crime are working class.

As with the main functionalist views on crime and deviance, feminists note that women are largely absent from the most well-known Marxist and neo-Marxist accounts. Of course, the main reason for that is that men are much more likely to commit crimes than women are and this is addressed in the social distribution of crime by gender (below).

Some would argue that typically proletarian crimes are treated more seriously than typically bourgeois (or white collar) crimes, not because the state is acting on behalf of the ruling class but because those crimes are actually more serious. Although white-collar crimes like fraud might involve larger sums of money, crimes like robbery and assault are more violent and personal and the perpetrators are therefore a greater risk to public safety. 

However, Marxists who have been influenced by labelling theory (see interactionist explanations) would argue that the same type of crime can be treated very differently depending on the social class of the perpetrator because of the label given to the act: e.g. an Oxford medical student recently stabbed her boyfriend during a drug-and-alcohol-fuelled argument; the judge considered not giving her a custodial sentence because of her "extraordinary talent".


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