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Conflict criminology strives to locate the root cause of crime and tries to analyze how status and class inequality influences the justice system. The study of crime causation by radical criminologist increased between 1980s and 1990s as this led to the emergence of many radical theories such as Marxist criminology, feminist criminology, structural criminology, critical criminology, left realist criminology and peacemaking criminology (Rigakos, 1999). In spite of critical criminology encompassing many broad theories, some common themes are shared by radical research. The basic themes show how macro-level economic structures and crime are related, effects of power differentials, and political aspects in defining criminal acts.
Drawing from tenets of Marxist theory, critical criminology believe that crime results from the mode of production by capitalist and the economic structures they have created. Social classes have been divided into two: those whose income is secured by property ownership; and those whose income is secured by their labor. The resultant class structure influences the opportunities of an individual to succeed in life and his propensity to engage in crime. Although it encompasses the macro-economic factors that are rarely included in micro-economic analysis of crime, it does not substitute those macro factors, like unemployment, to micro factors, like being jobless. However, it combines the macro and micro factors in analyzing how micro factors of crime are integrated into the macro structures.
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Karl Marx made the first contributions in the analysis of crime from a conflict perspective. He asserted that due to capitalism, the bourgeoisie (owners of means of production) exploited the proletariat –the workers who lacked the means of production. Crime results from egoism based on economic relations, where ruthless competition in a capitalist society leads to conflict as people pursue individual profits. It is also argued that the State, Class and Crime centers on the struggle by the proletariat against oppression by the ruling and working class. Capitalism leads to domination which creates conflict because the oppressed tend to resist oppression. Taylor (1993) compares delinquency to structural conditions faced by the youth of the modern day world. The system fails to offer jobs to the youth thus exposing them to criminogeneic pressures. Criminologist and activist believe that creation of an equitable society is the solution to crime and fostering social justice.