Classical Theories of Marxist Criminology

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    • 00:00


    • 00:10

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE: Hello.My name is Robert Donald Weide and I'mthe professor of criminology in the Department of Sociologyhere at California State University, LosAngeles. [DR. ROBERT DONALD WEIDE, PROFESSOR OFCRIMINOLOGY] In this presentation,I'll be discussing classical Marxist criminology theoriesof crime and delinquency.I'll be covering the following classical theoristsand their work in the developmentof Marxist criminology theories of crime and delinquency.

    • 00:33

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: First, I'll be discussing William Chambliss's conceptionof the political economy of crime.Second, I'll be discussing Steven Spitzer's Marxian theoryof crime and deviance.And finally, I'll be discussing Richard Quinney'scontradictions of crime in the capitalist systemof crime and delinquency.It's important to understand classical Marxist criminology

    • 00:54

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: perspectives in order to appreciatethe role that the capitalist system playsin creating crime and the role that crimeplays in the capitalist system.[William Chambliss: The Political Economy of Crime]First, I'll begin with William Chambliss.William Chambliss applies Marx's principles

    • 01:14

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: to three areas of the criminal justice system.First, people, populations, and behaviorsare deemed criminal, because it isin the interest of the ruling classes to criminalize them.While at the same time, members of the ruling classesare insulated from being criminalizedfor the very same behavior.Second, the invention of crime serves the ruling classes

    • 01:35

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: by turning members of the surplus laborpopulation against one another.With some employed in criminal endeavorsand the underground economy and othersemployed by the state as law enforcement officers.There is no difference between lower class criminalsand law abiding members of the ruling classes.Both are rationally pursuing their self interests

    • 01:56

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: given their class position.Chambliss also suggests that since much crime isa response to the conditions of capitalist society,one would expect there to be much less crimein a socialist society.[Steven Spitzer: A Marxian Theory of Crime & Deviance]Next, I'll discuss the work of Stephen Spitzer.

    • 02:18

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: Steven Spitzer suggests that people, populations,and behaviors that threaten or createproblems for the ruling classes are deemed criminalby the state.According to Spitzer, groups who threaten any of the followingare targeted by the ruling classes for criminalization.The appropriation and accumulation of capital,for example theft and fraud, prevent people

    • 02:40

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: from accumulating wealth.And therefore, the capitalist systemcriminalizes these behaviors.Next, the appropriation of labor and the process of production.This includes those who refuse to or are unable to work.Third, the approved patterns of distribution and consumption

    • 02:60

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: in society.For example, some drugs are deemedillegal and criminalized, because theyprovide an escape from society.Whereas drugs that are used to help peopleassimilate into society are considered legal.Next, the socialization of the populationinto productive roles.

    • 03:21

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: For example, those who refused to be schooledor who deny the validity of family lifeare more likely to be criminalizedthan those who acquiesce.Next, the dominant capitalist ideology.Those who are proponents of alternative formsof social, economic, and political organizationin contrast to capitalism, are most

    • 03:43

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: likely to be criminalized by the capitalist system.Spitzer also suggests that there aretwo types of problem populations in society.Social junk and social dynamite.Social junk are those populationsthat pose no immediate threat to the capitalist state.Whereas social dynamite are those who dopresent a fundamental threat to some aspect

    • 04:04

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: of the capitalist system.Spitzer suggests that whether or notpotentially problem populations are criminalized by the statedepends on a number of factors concerning their relationshipwith the ruling classes.First, the extensiveness and intensity of state controls.Where problem management is monopolized by the state,deviance control regimes will be much more extreme.

    • 04:26

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: Next, the size and level of threatpresented by the problem population.A larger problem population is more of a threatto the capitalist state.And therefore, more likely to be criminalized.Third, the level of organization of the problem population.Those populations who are economically, socially,and politically powerless are more susceptible to being

    • 04:48

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: defined as deviant.Whereas organized populations areless susceptible to the applicationof a deviant or criminal identity.Next, the effectiveness of social control structures,such as churches schools and familiesto control problem populations.Those that lack these mechanisms are morelikely to be deemed deviant.Next, the availability and effectiveness

    • 05:10

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: of alternative types of official processing.Such as military conscription or publicworks projects, which operate to occupy problem populationsin state-sponsored endeavors.Next, is the availability and effectivenessof parallel control structures, such as organized crimeor tribes and clans.Parallel sources of authority, like organized crime,

    • 05:33

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: operate to pacify, contain, and enforce orderamong problem populations.And therefore, are in the interestsof capitalist society.Next, the utility of problem populations.Those populations that are of use to the ruling elitewill be less likely to be deemed deviantand may even be condoned or supportedif their crimes exclusively victimize

    • 05:54

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: members of an expendable class or problem population.Finally, Spitzer concludes by suggestinga number of alternative strategiesfor dealing with problem populations.First, is normalization.This strategy is to decriminalizedifferent deviant groups, thereby incorporating them backinto the fold of the dominant society.

    • 06:15

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: Second, is conversion.This strategy is to employ deviance or potential deviancein law enforcement as police officers, parole officers,caseworkers, and so forth.Next, is containment.This strategy is to geographicallysegregate large problem populations into urban ghettos,so as to separate them from mainstream society.

    • 06:38

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: Finally, support for criminal enterprise.This strategy is to permit organized crimeto provide an alternative occupation for thosewho are not employed in capitalist production.Organized crime also has the advantageof providing structure and the pacification of problempopulations for the state.[Richard Quinney: The Contradictions of Crime

    • 06:59

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: in a Capitalist System]Now we'll conclude with a discussionof the work of Richard Quinney.Richard Quinney suggests that thereis a fundamental contradiction in capitalist societyand that all capitalist societies require a surpluspopulation of workers, who are not employed in the mainstreameconomy, in order to suppress the wages of workers

    • 07:21

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: who are employed.However, this surplus population presents a constant threatto the capitalist system and that these people mightrevolt against it and replace it with an alternative systemof social and economic organization.As capitalism advances, less workersare needed in production of goods.And therefore, the surplus labor populationincreases along with the threat that it represents

    • 07:44

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: to the capitalist order.According to Quinney, criminalizationis the primary tool that the capitalist systemhas to control the surplus labor population.And as a surplus labor population grows,so will their criminalization.According to Quinney this contradictionwill eventually lead to the collapseof the capitalist system, because it will bankrupt itself

    • 08:07

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: trying to control an ever increasing surplus laborpopulation.Let me suggest some further reading on this topic.First, is William Chambliss's articleToward a political economy of crime.Also, you should look at Steven Spitzer's articleToward a Marxian theory of deviance.And finally, Richard Quinney's classic book, Class, state,

    • 08:29

      ROBERT DONALD WEIDE [continued]: and crime.

Classical Theories of Marxist Criminology

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Professor Weide outlines three Marxist theories that attempt to explain how capitalist societies create and define criminal behavior. His discussion focuses on the ideas of one theorist at a time and demonstrates the contrasts between them.

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Classical Theories of Marxist Criminology

Professor Weide outlines three Marxist theories that attempt to explain how capitalist societies create and define criminal behavior. His discussion focuses on the ideas of one theorist at a time and demonstrates the contrasts between them.

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