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Conflict Theory -

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Critical Theories
Can’t we all just get along?
Critical Theories in Context
In 1950-1960s = strainPolicy = provide opportunity to those who lack means for achieving legitimate success.Turmoil of 1960s criminologists become more skepticalPoliticians and other interests groups lack will to make realchangesClowardand Ohlin storyMany groups activelyoppose providing opportunities
Consensus vs. Conflict
Law reflect shared belief about what is wrongLaw resolves conflicts and maintains orderThe state is “neutral”Bias is temporary and unintentional
Law is an end process in a conflict over valuesBias is built into the law (winners punish losers)The state (CJS) responds to the needs of those in power (not neutral)
Critical Theory
Central ThemesEmphasis on “inequality” and “power”Crime as “political” conceptCJS serves interests of powerfulSolution to crime is more equitable societyEXPLANATION OF LAW and CJ SYSTEM rather than crime
Variations of Critical Theory
Conflict TheoryMarxist/Radical TheoryLeft Realism/PeacemakingFeminist Criminology/Gender and Crime
Pluralistic Conflict—Explanation of the Law and Criminal Justice
GeorgeVoldGroup ConflictMultiple groups in society with varying levels of power▪ Political interest groups▪ Social movements▪ Broad segments of society▪ Political partiesThose who win conflict get control over the law and coercive power of the state
Empirical Evidence
The formulation of lawInterest groups’ influence on law-makingResearch on consensus over lawsThe operation of the CJSResearch on “extra-legal” variables“Legal” = prior record, offense seriousness“extra” = RACE, CLASS, GENDERDemeanor?
Race, Crime, and Criminal Justice
After controlling for legal factors, race-CJS studies are all over the boardEspecially if one controls for demeanor (Reiss, 1966 observed police)Research issuesThe meaning of prior record and demeanorHow to isolate and study biasDifferent stages of the legalsystem
Race and Justice II
Racial profiling▪ Difficult to determine▪ Minorities more likely to live in high-crime areas▪ Alfred Blumstein▪ Racial disparity in incarceration due largely to disparities in arrest rates▪ Blacks at a disadvantage in the criminal justice system, especially for less serious crimes
Where the Evidence is Clear
Race and Capital PunishmentVictim x Race interactionsRace and Drug ProsecutionsLong history of connecting drugs to “dangerous” populationsChinese OpiumMexicans  MarijuanaAfrican Americans  Crack Cocainee“Crack Multiplier”Enforcement patterns for drug offenses
Conflict: An Explanationof Street Crime
Thorston Sellin (1938)Cultural conflict theoryGist: violate laws of the majority simply by following the norms of one’s own reference groupGeorge Vold (1958)Group conflict theory (crime that results from conflict)Labor strife, protest-related crime
Karl Marx
Communist ManifestoMeans of production determine the structure of societyCapitalism:Owners of the means of production (capitalists)Workers = proletariat, lumpen proletariat
Capitalism will Self-Destruct
The laboring class produces goods that exceed the value of their wages (profit)The owners invest the profit to reduce the workforce (technology)The workers will no longer be able to afford the goods produced by the owners
Wilhelm Adrian Bonger
▪ Early attempt to tie Marx and Crime Together▪ Altruism as a defining characteristic of society and human nature▪ Egoism characterizes capitalist society▪ Capitalism builds social irresponsibility and creates a climate of crime▪ Solution: socialism (which allows altruism to flourish)
Marxist/Radical Criminology
Instrumental Marxist PositionHard line positionCrime and the creation and enforcement of law the direct result of capitalismStructural Marxist PositionSofter PositionGovernments are somewhat autonomousOver time, the direction of the law (creation and enforcement) will lean towards the capitalists
Instrumental Marxist Criminology
Richard Quinney (1980)All Conflict is organized around capitalist versus the poorEither you are an oppressed lackey or a capitalistAnyone who does not realize this (or identifies with capitalism) hasfalse class consciousnessThe real power and authority is exclusive to the ruling class
Quinney (1980) cont.
Primary goal of capitalists? Maintain Power!To do this, must trample rights of othersBut, also must portray an egalitarian societyAccomplished by controlling media, academics
Implications for Law
Capitalists control the definition of crimeLaws protect the capitalists (property, $)Laws ignore crimes of the capitalists (profiteering)
Implications for the Criminal Justice System
CJS is the tool of the capitalists; used to oppress (not protect) the working populationCrimes of the rich treated with kid glovesProperty crimes strictly enforced“Street crimes” are enforced only in poor neighborhoodsIncarceration to control surplus labor
Implications for Crime?
Crimes of the Capitalists (must control)Economic DominationCrimes of the GovernmentCrimes of ControlSocial Injuries (should be crimes)Crimes of the Lower Class“Rebellion”Crimes of “Accommodation”
The policy implication of Marxist Criminology is clear.Dismantle the capitalist structure in favor of a socialist structure.
Criticisms Radical/Marxist Criminology
An “underdog theory” with little basis in factAre “socialist societies” any different?Other capitalist countries have low crime ratesMost crime is poor against poor—Marxists ignore the plight of the poor.
▪The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison▪ Key point = harmful acts of the rich are often ignored(unneccesary surgery, environmental harm, etc.)White collar crime less serious and less likely to be enforced▪ Pollution, Hazardous work conditions, Unsafe products, Insider trading, Embezzlement, Fraud▪Evenwealthy people who engage in street crime are less likely to be formally charged and better able to avoid sanctioning
Elliot Currie—Slightly Less Radical
▪Only some forms of capitalism encourage crime▪ Market economy (compassionate capitalism)Japan (Top down)Scandinavian (Bottom up)▪Marketsociety(high levels of inequality and poverty)▪ Solution: softer, gentler capitalist society
Elliot Currie
▪Mechanisms that link market societies to high rates of violence▪Destroys livelihoods▪Tendency toward extremes of inequality▪Weakens public support▪ Erodes informal social support▪ Promotes a culture of competition and consumption▪ Deregulates the technology of violence▪ Weakens alternative political values and institutions
Gender and Crime
Feminist CriminologyRelationships between gender, crime, and the criminal justice systemGender Ratio and Generalizability
Feminist Criminology
▪Emphasizes equal opportunity and importance of sex-role socializations▪ Focus on “patriarchy”—male dominance exerted over females through financial and physical power▪ Types▪ Liberal feminism▪ Socialist feminism▪ Radical feminism
Feminist Criminology
Good example of conflict theory in actionFeminists responsible for shaping the law and law enforcementMarital RapeIntimate Partner ViolenceFeminists also largely responsible for the recent focus on gender/crime issues
▪ Gender ratio (Gender Gap)▪ Males account for the vast majority of delinquent and criminal offending▪ UCR, NCVS, self-report▪ Gender gap shrinking?Liberation hypothesis (Not supported by research)WHY is gender ratio so large?Can traditional theories explain? (Social bond, delinquent peers, etc.)Masculinity & sex roles
Gender and Crime II
Generaliziblity issueCan “Male” theories explain female offending?Many theories blatantly sexist (See, Cohen)Many theories simply ignore femalesMainstream theories do explain male and female offending similarlyCould we do better explaining female criminality?Salience of sexual/physical abuse among delinquent girls
Daly’s Typology of female offending
▪ Street women▪ Harmed-and-harming women▪ Battered women▪ Drug-connected women▪ Other women
Gender and theCriminal Justice System
▪ Research findings▪ When gender effects are found, females are treated more lenientlyChivalry HypothesisPaternalism HypothesisSeriousness of offense differs in ways that most research doesn’t countSort-of-legal-factors (“familied”)





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Conflict Theory -