Crime And Capitalism

Crime And Capitalism: Readings in Marxist Crimonology

Copyright Date: 1993
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 776
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    Crime And Capitalism
    Book Description:

    "This book is superb in every way.... [It] is the only book that attempts to put into perspective just what the possible relationship between praxis and Marxist criminology might (should) be." --Eleanor Miller, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee In this expanded and updated second edition of a revered reader in Marxist criminology, editor David F. Greenberg brings together writings about crime that range from classic articles by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to a variety of contemporary essays. Taking an explicitly Marxist point of view, the articles deal with various aspects of criminology, including organized crime, delinquency, urban crime, criminal law, and criminal justice. To the original text, Greenberg has added pieces on race and crime, gender and crime, rape, arson for profit, and auto theft. With extensive prefatory material prepared by Greenberg, as well as editorial notes, and a glossary of Marxist terminology, Crime and Capitalism is an indispensable text for students and professionals in the fields of criminology, criminal justice, social history, and sociology.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0564-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface to the Second Edition
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-36)

    In the 1970s a new school of criminological thought, known variously as “new,” “critical,” “radical,” or Marxist, came on the scene.¹ It challenged the paradigms that then dominated criminology, and drew on the insights of New Left social criticism in developing a host of new and controversial ideas about crime.

    Ours, of course, is not the first generation to have drawn on radical critiques of existing social arrangements in writing about crime. Nineteenth-century utopian socialists, anarchists, and Marxists all discussed crime and punishment in terms that foreshadow some of today’s discussions. Radical Jacksonians in the early nineteenth century campaigned against...

  5. Part 1 Marx and Engels on Crime and Punishment
    • [Part 1 Introduction]
      (pp. 37-44)

      Although crime was not a central interest for Marx and Engels, they did discuss crime and punishment in some of their writings. Now, when radical criminologists are attempting to reconstruct criminology on Marxian foundations, these writings are of particular interest. To convey a sense of what Marx and Engels had to say about crime, representative selections from these writings are reprinted here.¹

      The first three selections concern the relationship between crime and capitalism. The first, extracted fromCapital,is part of a larger discussion of the origins of capitalism in early modem England. Marx was particularly concerned with refuting the...

    • 1 Crime and Primitive Accumulation
      (pp. 45-48)
      Karl Marx

      The prelude of the revolution that laid the foundation of the capitalist mode of production, was played in the last third of the 15th, and the first decade of the 16th century. A mass of free proletarians was hurled on the labour-market by the breaking-up of the bands of feudal retainers, who, as Sir James Steuart well says, “everywhere uselessly filled house and castle.” Although the royal power, itself a product of bourgeois development, in its strife after absolute sovereignty forcibly hastened on the dissolution of these bands of retainers, it was by no means the sole cause of it....

    • 2 The Demoralization of the English Working Class
      (pp. 48-50)
      Friedrich Engels

      . . . Immorality is fostered in every possible way by the conditions of working class life. The worker is poor; life has nothing to offer him; he is deprived of virtually all pleasures. Consequently he does not fear the penalties of the law. Why should he restrain his wicked impulses? Why should he leave the rich man in undisturbed possession of his property? Why should he not take at least a part of this property for himself? What reason has the worker fornotstealing? . . .

      . . . Distress due to poverty gives the worker only...

    • 3 Crime in Communist Society
      (pp. 51-52)
      Friedrich Engels

      Present-day society, which breeds hostility between the individual man and everyone else, thus produces a social war of all against all which inevitably in individual cases, notably among uneducated people, assumes a brutal, barbarously violent form—that of crime. In order to protect itself against crime, against direct acts of violence, society requires an extensive, complicated system of administrative and judicial bodies which requires an immense labour force. In communist society this would likewise be vastly simplified, and precisely because—strange though it may sound—precisely because the administrative body in this society would have to manage not merely individual...

    • 4 The Usefulness of Crime
      (pp. 52-53)
      Karl Marx

      A philosopher produces ideas, a poet verse, a parson sermons, a professor text-books, etc. A criminal produces crime. But if the relationship between this latter branch of production and the whole productive activity of society is examined a little more closely one is forced to abandon a number of prejudices. The criminal produces not only crime but also the criminal law; he produces the professor who delivers lectures on this criminal law, and even the inevitable text-book in which the professor presents his lectures as a commodity for sale in the market. There results an increase in material wealth, quite...

    • 5 The Labeling of Crime
      (pp. 54-54)
      Karl Marx

      There must be something rotten in the very core of a social system which increases its wealth without diminishing its misery, and increases in crimes even more rapidly than in numbers. It is true enough that, if we compare the year 1855 with the preceding years, there seems to have occurred a sensible decrease of crime from 1855 to 1858. The total number of people committed for trial, which in 1854 amounted to 29,359, had sunk down to 17,855 in 1858; and the number of convicted had also greatly fallen off, if not quite in the same ratio. This apparent...

    • 6 On Capital Punishment
      (pp. 55-56)
      Karl Marx

      . . . It would be very difficult, if not altogether impossible, to establish any principle upon which the justice or expediency of capital punishment could be founded, in a Society, glorying in its civilization. Punishment in general had been defended as a means either of ameliorating or of intimidating. Now what right have you to punish me for the amelioration or intimidation of others? And besides, there is history—there is such a thing as statistics—which prove with the most complete evidence that since Cain the world has neither been intimidated nor ameliorated by punishment. Quite the contrary....

  6. Part 2 The Causes of Crime
    • [Part 2 Introduction]
      (pp. 57-99)

      By the mid to late 1960s, some non-Marxist criminologists had virtually stopped looking for causes of crime and had turned instead to studying social responses to it. They did so not merely to correct an imbalance, to study the police and the courts because so much less was known about them than about thieves, addicts, and prostitutes. Rather, the shift represented fundamental theoretical commitments. Austin Turk (1964) assured us that the search for causes of crime was futile: what distinguished criminals from noncriminals was not their personal attributes but their lack of political power, which left them vulnerable to law...

    • 1 Karl Marx, the Theft of Wood, and Working-Class Composition
      (pp. 100-121)
      Peter Linebaugh

      The international working-class offensive of the 1960s threw the social sciences into crisis from which they have not yet recovered. The offensive was launched in precisely those parts of the working class that capital had formerly attempted to contain within silent, often wageless reserves of the relative surplus population, that is, in North American ghettoes, in Caribbean islands, or in “backward” regions of the Mediterranean. When that struggle took the form of the mass, direct appropriation of wealth, it became increasingly difficult for militants to understand it as a “secondary movement” to the “real struggle” that, it was said, resided...

    • 2 Goths and Vandals: Crime in History
      (pp. 122-141)
      Geoffrey Pearson

      Since the end of the Second World War the understanding of the history of the common people of England has been redrawn, even transformed. In particular, the works of Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm, Raymond Williams and Edward Thompson have illuminated the critical English transition from a predominantly agricultural economy into the world’s first urban and industrial nation.¹ It would be wrong to think of these writers as constituting a “School”: their work is not marred by that kind of tedious scholastic dogmatism. It also contains within it many shifts of emphasis, and some internal inconsistencies. Nevertheless, these writers do share...

    • 3 Hunting, Fishing, and Foraging: Common Rights and Class Relations in the Postbellum South
      (pp. 142-168)
      Steven Hahn

      When the Beech Island Farmers’ Club, a planter organization in Aiken, South Carolina, met in January 1875, it passed resolutions instructing members to "prosecute all trespassers and violators of the game laws” and prohibit“tenants and laborers” from keeping “stock of any kind on any enclosed or unenclosed land” not “specifically allotted to” them. The club further implored that livestock “trespassing beyond [the] alloted land be impounded” at the laborer’s expense “for the first offense and . . . forfeited or destroyed” for the second and urged “the adoption and enforcement” of these “conditions by all persons in our community.” Three...

    • 4 Organized Crime and Class Politics
      (pp. 169-193)
      Frank Pearce

      Capone’s domination of Chicago is legendary. Kobler begins his recent biography with an account of Capone’s ability to decide whether or not there should be a clean election in 1928. Allsop sees part of his task to explain “the genesis of this eventual domination of a city by a criminal dictator . . . whose authority extended, through the State of Illinois and beyond.”¹ This occurred in part because of the subservience of powerful aldermen such as Kenna and Coughlin to Capone and Torrio.² Eventually, “As the vicious criminal elements and their political counterparts became more strongly organised, government was...

    • 5 Urban Crime and Capitalist Accumulation, 1950–1971
      (pp. 194-210)
      Don Wallace and Drew Humphries

      Since the Second World War, urban crime rates have increased steadily in most Western democracies (Gurr, 1977), and especially in the United States (Jacobson, 1975), but not in the Socialist nations (see Freiburg, 1975; Mosciskier, 1976). This contrast suggests that aspects of capitalism may have causally significant effects on the crime rate.

      Marxists see high urban crime rates, in the United States in particular, as one consequence of capitalist crisis, the result of recurrently high rates of unemployment and underemployment (see Crime and Social Justice, 1976). This tradition, which views crime as systemically tied to economic crises in the form...

      (pp. 211-257)
      James Brady

      Not since our towns were built of wood and Mrs. O’Leary’s graceless cow resided in downtown Chicago have Americans feared fire as a collective danger. Today, grieving families standing beside their smoldering homes draw our sympathies, but we do not feel ourselves imperiled by their misfortune. Gleaming new hook-and-ladder engines and fire-resistant building construction reassure us that the great city-devouring blazes that swept Chicago in 1877 and San Francisco in 1906 are a menace safely past.

      Yet, in the space of fifteen years arson has grown to proportions far surpassing any of the so-called index crimes and now looms as...

    • 7 Wealth, Crime, and Capital Accumulation
      (pp. 258-264)
      Harold Barnett

      Illegal potential may be thought of as the limit of one’s ability to generate an illegal income. While labor power is relevant for defining the illegal potential possessed by the majority of the population, our concern here is with illegal potential as related to wealth. In particular we are concerned with the illegal potential associated with that majority of privately-held wealth which represents ownership of capital. The illegal potential possessed by the owners of this wealth reflects capital’s ability to illegally appropriate income. In this section we will show that there is a basic inequality in illegal potential among groups...

      (pp. 265-278)
      Harry Brill

      It has been well established that legitimate businesses as well as the underworld sector engage in a variety of criminal activities. Among these, bribes, kickbacks, income tax fraud, and falsifying information about products are routinely practiced. The implications extend beyond the prosaic fact that the illegitimate sector enjoys no monopoly on crime. More significantly, legitimate businesses, by behaving immorally and illegally, frequently create and promote opportunities for underworld exploitation, and therefore play an important and even indispensable role in the commission of numerous crimes.

      The paper focuses on one such crime: auto theft.¹ Although it has not received as much...

    • 9 The Production of Black Violence in Chicago
      (pp. 279-333)
      Cyril D. Robinson

      At the beginning of the twentieth century, when there were but 2 percent blacks in Chicago, and as late as the 1940s, when most blacks were still in the South, few people saw blacks as the major source of violent crime. Yet today, street crime and gang violence by black youth ravage many black communities. This essay will show how public and private decisions contributed to and largely determined that result. One of its major theses is that people in a position to do so have used a subordinate group, in this case, lower-class blacks, as their instrument of capital...

    • 10 Delinquency and the Age Structure of Society
      (pp. 334-356)
      David F. Greenberg

      An extraordinary amount of crime in American society is the accomplishment of young people. In recent years, more than half of those arrested for the seven FBI index offenses have been age 18 or under. Per capita arrest rates for vandalism and property crimes not involving confrontation with a person (burglary, grand larceny, auto theft) peak at age 15 to 16, fall to half their peak values in two to four years, and continue to decline rapidly. Arrest rates for narcotics violations and offenses involving confrontation with a victim (homicide, forcible rape, aggravated assault, robbery) peak a few years later,...

    • 11 Rape, Sexual Inequality, and Levels of Violence
      (pp. 357-404)
      Julia Schwendinger and Herman Schwendinger

      Bring a group of knowledgeable anthropologists into one room for a serious discussion of violence against women, and the interchange begins with the realization that sexual inequality is entirely rooted in historical conditions (Caulfield, 1978). In light of the historical variations in sexual equality, the so-called “perpetual” battle between the sexes becomes a myth without substance.

      Women were not (as Brownmiller [1975] says) subjugated by men in the dawn of time. Anthropologist Eleanor Leacock describes numerous archaic societies in which the status of women was autonomous or equal to men. Her work on the Montagnais-Labradore tribes uses the chronicles written...

    • 12 The Gendering of Crime in Marxist Theory
      (pp. 405-442)
      David F. Greenberg

      Imagine, in your mind’s eye, a criminal. Chances are high that the person you’ve imagined is male. When criminologists think of criminals, they too usually think of males, and for reasons that are not just imaginary. So far as we know, in all countries throughout the world, crimes of interpersonal violence and theft are committed very disproportionately by males (Mannheim, 1967:697; Sutherland and Cressey, 1978: 130–36).¹

      With women seriously underrepresented in the annals of crime, criminology until recently gave only occasional and limited attention to female criminality. Even less attention was given to the role culturally defined conceptions of...

  7. Part 3 Criminal Law and Criminal Justice
    • [Part 3 Introduction]
      (pp. 443-462)

      Until the 1960s, criminologists restricted their research to an extremely limited set of questions. They asked what the causes of crime were, and how it could be prevented or controlled. The laws that defined what was criminal, and the enforcement practices that defined who was to be labeled as a criminal and punished or rehabilitated were not studied. Although criminologists were aware that different societies had different definitions of crime, they made no systematic attempt to study these differences. That law enforcement was not always evenhanded and that it was sometimes corrupt was well-known to criminologists. But they did not...

    • 1 The Dialectics of Crime Control
      (pp. 463-508)
      Drew Humphries and David F. Greenberg

      Although criminologists have generally agreed that the explanation of crime control is one of the central tasks of criminology, our understanding of why changes in criminal law and its enforcement take place remains theoretically primitive. Historians have carried out many case studies of such changes, but often they have abstained from explaining the events they describe. Sociologists, on the other hand, commonly devise explanations for a particular change of interest without considering how widely the explanations can be generalized. Textbook treatments typically survey these explanations but without reconciling or synthesizing discrepancies of perspective.

      Until these matters are clarified, the continued...

    • 2 A Reinterpretation of Criminal Law Reform in Nineteenth-Century England
      (pp. 509-532)
      Michael Rustigan

      What is it that makes a person a pioneer in criminology? Hermann Mannheim asks this question in the introduction to his book of selected essays entitledPioneers in Criminology.He suggests that this title should be reserved for those scholars who have distinguished themselves both by the the intrinsic value of their writings and by the degree to which their accomplishments have achieved a measure of lasting success in the field (1960:4).

      Understandably, Mannheim has designated Jeremy Bentham as a pioneer in criminology. Bentham is associated with the emergence of the classical school of criminology and has been widely celebrated...

    • 3 The Walnut Street Jail: A Penal Reform to Centralize the Powers of the State
      (pp. 533-545)
      Paul Takagi

      Most of us have been led to believe that the “gentle and humane” Quakers founded the prison as an alternative to the sanguinary English laws then in effect, and that the idea of a prison was based upon the prevailing theory of humane reason. There are problems with these interpretations. Thorsten Sellin (1970) and more recently Smith and Fried (1974) have shown how the prison was not an American invention. Sellin went so far as to conclude: “The philosophy of the system was a British importation and the ‘penitentiary house’ of the Walnut Street Jail was no innovation. English reformers...

    • 4 Policing a Class Society: The Expansion of the Urban Police in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries
      (pp. 546-567)
      Sidney L. Harring

      Marxists place the development of the police as a major social control institution in the context of the contradictions of rapidly expanding industrial capitalism. Karl Marx himself noted that the state “employs the police to accelerate the accumulation of capital by increasing the degree of exploitation of labor” (1967:742). He further noted that as soon as workers try to organize to protect their class interests, capital “cries out at the infringement of the eternal and so to say ‘sacred law of supply and demand’” and tries to check this collective action by forcible means (1967:640).

      Taking Marx’s observations as a...

    • 5 The Political Economy of Policing
      (pp. 568-594)
      Steven Spitzer

      Richard Quinney has argued that to understand the political economy of criminal justice “is to understand a crucial part of the capitalist system” (1977:108). If we are to discover the inner workings of capitalism through the activities and structures that we call the “criminal justice system,” we must base our inquiry on a clear and systematic conception of the relationship between capitalist development and the changing character of crime control.

      We will examine the political economy of policing from ahistorical, materialistic,anddialecticalperspective. Our perspective will behistoricalin the sense that it examines how capitalism (or any...

    • 6 At Hard Labor: Penal Confinement and Production in Nineteenth-Century America
      (pp. 595-611)
      Rosalind P. Petchesky

      The involuntary confinement of social deviants on a systematic, massive scale arose and developed along with capitalism. Moreover, the structure and techniques of confinement were from the beginning articulated with the economic and social needs of capitalist development.¹ In the early-to-mid-nineteenth century, with the growth of a fiscal base and an administrative apparatus, the state in both England and America began to construct large publicly owned and operated institutions, such as prisons and asylums. Yet the symbiotic relationship between the state and private capital that had characterized the earlier mercantilist economy did not subside. On the contrary, it became more...

    • 7 Convict Leasing: An Application of the Rusche–Kirchheimer Thesis to Penal Changes in Tennessee, 1830–1915
      (pp. 612-620)
      Randall G. Shelden

      Some decades ago, Georg Rusche and Otto Kirchheimer argued in their classic studyPunishment and Social Structurethat changes in forms of punishment reflect changes in economic and political institutions in the larger society. “Prison labor,” for example, “is impossible without manufacture or industry” (1968:6). Put differently, their argument says that changes in the dominant mode of production result in changes in the dominant mode of punishment. In this paper I will argue that as the Southern United States changed from a slave economy to a capitalist economy after the Civil War, imprisonment became the dominant mode of punishment. More...

    • 8 The Cooptation of Fixed Sentencing Reform
      (pp. 621-640)
      David F. Greenberg and Drew Humphries

      The correctional philosophy and programmatic goals of American penal reformers have recently shifted away from the “rehabilitative ideal” or “treatment model” toward what is coming to be known as the “justice model” of correction. Although the early advocates of justice model principles saw themselves as advancing prisoners' interests and contributing to a broader process of radical social change, the model has taken on an increasingly conservative cast in the past few years. This essay documents the ideological transformation of the justice model, examines the consequences of this transformation for the administration of justice and social change more generally, and identifies...

    • 9 The Enforcement of Anti-Monopoly Legislation
      (pp. 641-648)
      Harold Barnett

      Active antitrust enforcement is necessary for state promotion of social harmony. The state must appear ready to punish monopoly as well as competitive sector violators lest it be perceived as an administrative arm of the corporation. Enforcement is also necessary given the justification of a market economy in terms of benefits which derive from competition and the historic public reaction to the real and imagined effects of monopoly. At the same time, active antitrust may be perceived as in opposition to state support of capital accumulation. There is a symbiotic structural relationship between the state and the monopoly sector which...

    • 10 The Standards of Living in Penal Institutions
      (pp. 649-664)
      Herman Schwendinger and Julia R. Schwendinger

      The surge of punitive policies in the 1970s encouraged debate about the dimensions of fair punishment and “just deserts” for criminals. But rarely did we see an inquiry into the reasons why “just deserts,” however it may be defined, becomes “cruel and inhuman punishment” in practice. By conducting such an inquiry, this essay deepens the debate and Orients it into new directions.¹

      Across the United States, prisoners’ actions have publicized their substandard living conditions. Militant protests against such conditions have occurred even in San Quentin, Soledad, and Folsom prisons in the wealthy state of California, which is well known for...

  8. Part 4 Crime and Revolution:: Is Crime Progressive?
    • [Part 4 Introduction]
      (pp. 665-673)

      Criminologists and lay persons alike have usually regarded crime as something harmful, something to be prevented, but qualifications to this general condemnation have often been made. Beccaria, an Italian economist and legal philosopher who wrote in the late eighteenth century, argued that matters of religious belief and private morality should not be subject to criminal prohibition. More recently, sociologists have argued that certain crimes are “victimless.” Typically, the people involved in these crimes do not regard them as harmful, do not with to be protected by the law, and do not complain to the police when a violation has taken...

    • 1 Crime, the Crisis of Capitalism, and Social Revolution
      (pp. 674-688)
      Morton G. Wenger and Thomas A. Bonomo

      Although it was never a major issue within the classical or orthodox Marxist tradition, the relationship between crime and the terminal crisis of capitalism has become the subject of considerable debate within modem American radical criminology. The debate doesnotconcern the role of capitalism in producing crime—to all but the reactionary or the naive, such questions have long been settled. Rather, the debate concerns the contention on the part of some practitioners of the “new criminology” that crime is not merely a negative consequence of capitalism, but is also objectivelyprogressivebecause it is one of the mechanisms...

    • 2 Gangs and Progress: The Contribution of Delinquency to Progressive Reform
      (pp. 689-736)
      Evan Stark

      The modem system of mass production and consumption was organized in the Progressive Era and during the most massive immigration in U.S. history. Nevertheless, the two events—the economic take-off and the influx of labor from Europe—have rarely been linked. The dominant myth is that enlightened industrialists took charge of the economy while new professional strata created a myriad of laws and institutions to distribute its benefits. Through the juvenile court, protective legislation for children and working women, the settlement house movement, the comprehensive high school, and other efforts to overcome the inequities of laissez faire liberalism, the progressives...

  9. Part 5 Praxis and Marxian Criminology
    (pp. 737-750)

    Marx’s preoccupation with revolutionary political movements grew out of his attempts to grapple with the philosophical legacy of Hegel. In the 1830s and 1840s, the Young Hegelians—a circle of philosophers who extended and modified Hegel’s ideas—had come to regard philosophy as a form of social criticism. They compared the world as it was with a philosophical ideal of how the world should be. The youthful Karl Marx was one of these Young Hegelians, and his early social criticism is of this type. For example, he attacked the wood-gathering laws in Germany on the grounds that a “true” state...

  10. Glossary
    (pp. 751-756)
  11. Index
    (pp. 757-762)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 763-763)