Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Principles of a Marxist Approach to Criminology – Third Draft

Hi, after a year or so here is the third draft of my ideas of what the main principles of a Marxist criminology. Thanks to everyone who has commented on these ideas already. I think I've got them pretty much sorted now and I think my aim after hopefully reading lots of interesting comments from my readers on these will be to write it up into some sort of manifesto. (If you want to see the previous draft please click the first tag at the bottom).
Like around Christmas I'm going to be away for about a week or so, so you'll have to make do with some of the posts below for that period.

1) A Marxist approach to Criminology is not a separate theory of crime. Rather it is the use of Marxist ideas to study the phenomena studied by criminologists as part of an integrated study of society as a whole. Such an approach should draw on already existing Marxist concepts such as the State, Alienation etc.

2) Crime and criminal justice system should be understood in a criminal historical materialist context, we should look at their development to their present conditions. Allied to this would be an understanding that the economic context of a situation would have an impact on what types of crime are prevalent and how these will be responded to.

3) A marxist approach is moreover a class approach and sees crime to an extent as an expression of the conflict between classes in society. This is important in several important ways. Firstly, the ruling class in any each will have more power to define what is crime and to manage responses to crime in their interest. Due to this, crime will affect different classes differently as will the responses to crime.

4) As in the discipline of Criminology, a Marxist approach to Criminology would not just limit itself to studying crime as it is defined at the current moment. It would seek to take a definition of crime which is aligned with the interests of the working class and other oppressed layers in society.

5) A marxist approach is also an internationalist approach. However, crime and laws differ from country to country. Crime needs to be understood on various levels, from the local, to the regional, the national and the international.

6) As well as studying crime in ‘normal’ capitalist society, we should also seek to study what happened to crime and criminal justice during revolutionary periods and also in states that have claimed to be socialist.

7) We should seek to review how the workers movement has addressed the question in the past, as well as various intellectuals who have tried to put across arguments from a similar perspective (ie. Foucault, Jock Young etc.) and build upon these bases. We also need to keep abreast of ‘bourgeois’ criminologists and evaluate their ideas too.

8) As Marx says in his theses on Feuerbach, "Philosophers have hitherto interpreted the world, point is to change it". We should analyse crime and the criminal justice system from the point of the working class. We should put forward ideas of how a socialist/communist society would attempt to solve these problems, and fight for these to be adopted in the here and now.

9) We should seek to encourage debate and discussion between Marxists (and others) on issues related to criminology.

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