When looking into the sociology of crime and deviance it is near impossible to avoid countless references back to Marxism, a theory which looks at society from a conflict perspective. * This particular theory argues that the ruling classes which we have come to know as the bourgeoisie use the agencies of the state (the political system, police force, criminal justice courts etc) to exert control over the proletariat. This changes the agencies of the state into agents of repression. * Society’s norms and values stem from those of the rich and powerful and primarily serve their interests. * These norms are then forced onto the poorer/weaker members of society, the values of which tend to be exploitative of these groups.
* What is considered criminal and deviant behaviour within society as far as Marxism is concerned has been decided by the rich and the powerful. The laws in any given society can clearly reflect this point. * In recent capitalist societies norms and values of the bourgeoisie succeed and are effectively imposed on the proletariat. This is reflected in the laws and rules of a capitalist society in various forms. * A number of sociologists would argue that an example of the laws reflecting the norms imposed by the bourgeoisie is evident within society as a result of the amount of laws which concern or address the issues of property in capitalist societies. This point puts emphasis on importance of owning private property as a basis of wealth.
Taking these points into consideration we can deduct that Marxism’s strengths include its ability to analyse crime and deviant behaviour as originating from the economic structures of society as it includes the relationship between the bourgeoisie and proletariat. Marxism makes it clear that criminal behaviour isn’t just an issue concerning the poorer classes of society but also those higher up the social and economic ladder.
These crimes are commonly known as white collar crimes, Marxism makes it evident that this type of crime can be equally if not more damaging to society than the more common examples of working class crimes such as burglary, assault etc. A weakness of Marxism is that it is often criticised for over-emphasising the economy as the biggest, if not main cause of crime and deviant behaviour. An example of this is feminists being critical of Marxism for failing to explain or recognise gender as a factor. It is also greatly criticised for ignoring ethnicity and race as factors.