Critical Criminology

Critical Criminology

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Critical criminology, also known as radical criminology dates back to the concepts of Marxism. Despite the fact that Fredric Engels and Karl Marx were the founders of contemporary radical criminology, none of them gave explicit focus to crime. William Bonger (1876-1940), a Dutch criminologist was a more direct founder of this concept. It gained popularity during the early 1970s when it tried to explain the causes of contemporary social mayhem. He used economic explanations were used by critical criminology to analyze social behavior by arguing that social and economic inequalities were the main reason behind criminal behavior (Henry & Lainer, 1998). This view reduces the focus on individual criminals and elaborates that the existing crime is as a result of the capitalist system. Just like the conflict school of thought, it asserts that law is biased since it favors the ruling or the upper class and that the legal system that governs the state is meant to maintain the status quo of the ruling class. Critical criminologist are of the view that political, corporate and environmental crime are not only underreported but also inadequately punished by the existing criminal legal system.
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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Radical criminologists believe that contemporary capitalism sets the structures for criminogenic conditions such as social organization, inequality and alienation. Research indicates that relative deprivation such as economic and social inequality is a stronger initiator of crime than absolute deprivation like unemployment and poverty.
Studies on the links between politics and crime indicate that in most cases, crime tend to have a political dimension (Walklate, 2007). For example, as you move away from urban centers, economic and political opportunities tend to diminish making the marginalized population to abandon legitimate institutions in favor of illegal ones because they are more effective in acquiring economic and political gains. It becomes more difficult to differentiate illegal and legal political actions. For example, when is squatting differentiated from trespassing or stealing differentiated from looting? Moreover, the difference between political and criminal organizations is minimal. When an organization such as Black Panthers use illegal and illegitimate means to acquire political goals, will it be classified as a criminal subculture or a political organization.
Left realist criminology is radical and realistic in appraising the causes of crime. It sees crime as endemic due to class and patriarchal establishment of a modern society (Tunnel, 1995). It suggests that core institutions and central values hinder the efficient working of the social order making crime to arise. Feminist criminology argues that women carry the blunt of the capitalist society. Due to male domination, women are discriminate in the work place, streets and at home by being classified as inferior and being made to do the donkey work.
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.


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