The Primary in Radical Criminilogy: A Look at the Marxist Approach

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Radical Criminology

After reading The Primary in Radical Criminology, I was surprised to know how the social structure of our country affects our citizens. For many years, people had tried to explain how and why people become criminals. Many other theories used religious or environmental explanations to study crime. The writings of Karl Marx are different from those theoretical explanations. Marx focuses on how the distribution of political and economic power had a negative impact on the low class—the poor people. Marx said that many people don’t have equal distribution of wealth and power. Many criminologists followed the writings of Marx but not all of them agree with him. According to Michael J. Lynch and Raymond Michalowski, “The primary interest was developing a critic of existing criminology that demonstrates its neglect of the role that inequality and exploitation played in the formation of crime.” (9). Many criminologists didn’t agree that inequality among social classes was the formation of crime.

Radical criminology focuses on how the distribution of wealth, economic and political power push the poor people that experience the distress of living in a capitalist society to commit crimes. Marx focuses on American society; he focuses on the stress that people had experienced on the work force. He studies a group of mode of production and classified them as “masters and slaves.” The people that did not own the land had to work for the owners and lords of the land. The workers were excluded from wealth and power. According to Michael J. and Raymond Michalowski, “This explains why Marx saw class conflict as an economically grand phenomenon.” (29). The idea of Marx in class classification on mode of production makes sense. People that work for business-owners sometimes get frustrated by the inequality of economic and social status. Marx used this type of study to determine class classification, like the workers and business-owners, to see how this classification affects peoples’ reactions to crime.

Marx also studied Capitalists, the people that own small companies in the USA. Marx refers to this group of people as the bourgeoisie. They are classified as the people whom are self-employed. And he also refers to the working class as proletarian to identify them as separate from the employers. The purpose of Marx classifying the groups was to show the connection between coworkers and owners with economic and political relationship. According to Michael J. Lynch and Raymond Michalowski, “Social groups manifest different values and different behaviors, we must understand their historical general relationship to other classes with the context of their historically specific mode of production.” (30). Marx used the relationship among workers and owners to determine the low working class behavior. I can see that the inequality in the work force can cause some type of strain in a person, which can lead to criminal activity. The wealth distribution in American society is not equally distributed. There are many different classes in our society, especially in our community and work. Marx classified these groups as the rich, poor, working, and owners groups. The higher classes are those that have more opportunity to succeed in life. The lower classes are those that have to confront a lot of struggles and inequality before they can succeed in life. Another explanation for the cause of crimes is how our society is organized by laws. People that have the power to create and enforce the state law take advantage of the lower class, causing a struggle between the social classes. Quincy argued that, “laws are used to oppress the people so that the wealthy and powerful can maintain their positions of economic supremacy.” (47). Quincy, radical criminologist, classified this group as the ruling class. Even in laws there is inequality among social classes; for example, police officers have limited power in society. Police have the power to stop a civilian if they believe that the person is suspicious of committing a crime, but sometimes police officers take advantage of their power and intimidate civilians or even physically abuse them. Another example of social power inequality is the laws of Arizona SB1070, which gives the police the power to stop any person that looks like an illegal person. The inequality of this law must have a negative impact on the persons that are harassed due to this newly acquired power.

There are many criminologists that come up with theories attempting to provide an explanation for the cause of crime. The Radical criminologists say that the cause of crime is due to the inequalities of capitalism and political economy. But some radical criminologists also believe that the cause of crime is due to “labeling theory.” This theory says that judging or “labeling” a person as a criminal will encourage that person to commit crimes. The Marxist model of crime causation has a different explanation of why crime occurs. This model explains that individual’s manifestation of crime is due to the strains in capitalism. Policing has also influenced our society; for many years, policing corporations have tried to control crime. The problem is that the majority of the law enforcement agencies have focused more on lower class minority crimes. There is also an inequality of treatment to people; for example, women, many police officers do not treat women the same way they would men, due to their social class status. But, not only women suffer from police inequality but also people whom come from other countries. Because of their color, appearance and criminal background, Hispanics and blacks are often arrested as well. Michael J. Lynch and Raymond Michalowski said, “Minorities are more likely than white Americans to be shot, killed, arrested, and victimized by excessive physical force.” (235).

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In courts there is also social inequality because of gender, social orientation, and race. The court system punishes people who are poor because of their low social status. These people receive unequal treatment in courts because they are poor or because of the color of their skin. These aspects have a bias impact on the decision making of the jury.

America’s government has been using correctional facilities to control crime. The majority of jail inmates are minorities, poor, and most of them are unemployed. For most of history the poorest people have always been committing crimes due to the unequal wealth, political and economic power. One of the solutions that people have used in the past to deter criminals from committing crimes was physical punishment.

Radical criminologists do not believe that punishment is necessary to keep society in order. Today criminals are punished by depriving them from liberty and enforcing capitol sentence. The inequality of capitalism and economy are the factors that cause crime, according to Marx. The majority of the inmates didn’t have a full time job, which means that they had to commit crime to help their economic problems.

According to Michael J. Lynch and Raymond Michalowski, “In recent years, street crime has dropped noticeably in the U.S. by 2002 crime index had fallen 30 percent from its high point.” Peter Monniha said that many of these changes were because more people were getting full time jobs, and the police were being more vigilant. All these helped with the reduction of crime. One of the solutions that radical criminologists gave is transforming corporations into public trust, this would involve more organized communities. They also believe that civilians should have a meaningful place in society.

Radical criminology makes sense. Many people that come to the USA believe that we have equal opportunities but the truth is that we do not. In the working force there is sometimes favoritism due to race; for some colored people it is hard to find a job. It is also hard for people with criminal records to find jobs. Marx points out that Capitalism, political, wealth, and economy are not equal to everybody.

When people don’t have what they need, they get frustrated, desperate, and they have no choice but to commit crime. Many criminologists have tried to explain the cause of crime. One of these criminologists is Emily Durkheim, who was influenced by the writings of Marx. Even though, Durkheim is not a radical criminologist, she believes that the division of labor in society was one of the causes of crime. It makes sense to think that the low class group desired to achieve the high social class, and that when they don’t have the means of achieving it, they, most of the time, turn to crime as a solution. Radical criminologists think that this is because we don’t have wealth and political equality. The writings of Marx make sense only in this aspect of social inequality. There are so many reasons why people commit crimes and there would be a lot of

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