Marxists say crime can only be understood in terms of capitalism and the class struggle. Not only is the justice system unfair on the working-class it also benefits the ruling class.
Who makes the law and who benefits?
The first question Marxists asks is, who makes the laws and who benefits? They say laws are made by the state, representing the interests of the ruling class. For example Chambliss (1976) said that laws in regard to property were first set up to ensure the ruling class’ wealth remained in the family, and if any of the working class tried to stop this they were classed as breaking the law. This is because the property and land were the main source of wealth for the ruling class, so it was important this was protected. Chambliss then goes on to identify as our economy changed to a capitalist model, the laws also changed and again are enforced to protect the ruling class.
Marxists go on to say that any laws which are made to protect the working class, for example anti-monopolistic laws, are only done so to appease the working class so they don’t figure out the injustice in the criminal system.
Chambliss also pointed out that the laws that aren’t passed are as important as the ones that are. He said that the ruling-class have the power to ensure that no laws are passed that could damage the position and power of the ruling class.
Who breaks the law?
Most sociological perspectives agree that there is crime across all social strata; the richest and the poorest all commit crimes. However, Marxists say that the crimes by the ruling class not only go unpunished but also cause many more problems that the street crimes by the working-class. For example, 20,000 are murdered every year in the US, whilst 100,000 are killed by cancer due to unsafe working conditions imposed on the working-class by the ruling class. This crime is neither recognised as important nor punished, yet it causes many more problems than the crimes of the working class.