Saturday, 24 November 2007

Principles of a Marxist Approach to Criminology (A First Draft)

Below I've bullet pointed some of what I think would be key points to a marxist approach to crime. I would very much appreciate comments on what people think about these points, whether they agree with them, whether i've missed anything out at all either etc.

1) There is no seperate marxist theory of crime, rather marxist theory is applied to it, so we for example explain the aetiology (cause) of crime through ideas such as alienation, relative deprivation or as the normal workings of the capitalist system

2) The economic character of a period determines what crime is possible and what types of crime are likely to be prevelant.

3) Crime is however, defined in law, thus what is defined as crime is mostly what the ruling class of that period defines it as.

4) Crime disproportionately affects working class people, and brutalises them (a sort of double victimisation really)

5) The upper classes also have better means of protecting themselves, through private security, burglar alarms etc.

6) Class and other biases in the criminal justice system need to be analysed and responded to

7) The role of the state in both upholding bourgoise rule as well as responding to crime needs to be addressed.

8) Crime and responses to it should be analysed both in 'normal' times as well as in revolutionary changes when more progressive responses may emerge

9) As Marx says in his theses on Feuerbach, "Philosophers have hitherto interpreted the world, point is to change it"


Renegade Eye said...

I find it odd that the subject is often taboo on the left.

I was recently at a meeting, where someone said things as, "the supposed gang problem." Believing things like that is helpful.

Leftwing Criminologist said...

I'm not sure what you mean, are you talking about how sometimes people on the left 'romanticise' crime (as in think all crime acts are proto-revolutionary stuff - although i think it is likely that a proportion is due to frustration etc.) or believe that the ruling class make it up to keep us in check. (Which is different to what the ruling class do which is over-emphasise stuff into moral panics ie. the hoodie etc.)

anyway, what do you reckon to the principles put forward?

Dave Marlow said...

I would be interested in you developing these points. I think they are pretty solid and would make an interesting pamphlet. Ren is right; few on the left, much less Marxists, analyze crime in this manner. You certainly have found yourself a niche.

David Duff said...

"Crime is however, defined in law, thus what is defined as crime is mostly what the ruling class of that period defines it as."

Would that be why Marxist regimes invented 'Thought Crime' and 'Deviationism'?

Leftwing Criminologist said...

@ david duff

actually, thought crime comes straight from George Orwells novel Nineteen Eighty-four.

and it wasn't marxist regimes, rather stalinist regimes (that is regimes resting on a planned economy but where society was controlled by a bureacratic caste - note classes are based on property) that invented deviationism - which of course is a mockery of genuine marxism which would wish for the fullest discussion of ideas.

@ dave marlow

I've written a piece that i shall be posting soon on alienation and crime, and i've also got an essay to write on the criminal justice system which i'll post up soon.

blackstone said...

i'm looking forward to all of these

bob said...

Nominate your person of the year at

Mezhrayontsi said...

Interesting project - I would like to encourage you with it.

What is a Marxist approach to anything ? Off the top of my head I would suggest -

1. A class analysis of crime, as opposed to one that views society as an integral whole

2. A historical materialist approach, setting present day crime and criminology in its historical context

3. A politically engaged response to both crime and discourse over criminality, from the point of view of the working class

4. An internationalist standpoint, taking into account the perspective of the marginalised

5. An attempt to outline how a socialist or communist society would approach the problem of crime

6. A review of how the workers movement and its various components, including intellectuals like Foucault, have tackled the issue in the past

From these simple statements a whole raft of research and policy development projects emerge. If you intend to pursue them I would give the following words of advice, for what they are worth -

1. This is a complex subject, acknowledge its complexity and put forward your ideas carefully and tentatively

2. Absorb as much as you can of the existing literature on the matter, through your course at uni and elsewhere

3. Try and pull a group of people around you who have an interest in this area and share the workload

4. Go for it, its a really worthwhile line of work and could produce something really positive.

Good luck