Conflict Perspective of Crime and Deviance

(Karl Marx)

When it comes to crime, conflict theorists don't examine how and why crimes happen. Rather, they look at how society creates and defines deviants.

Karl Marx, the first conflict theorist, believed that capitalistic societies are split into two classes: the bourgeoisie (rich) and the proletariats (poor). The bourgeoisie are the ones who own the means of production, while the proletariat (the working class) are the ones who manufacture all of the goods. The rich extract capital from the goods that are built and then pay the workers a wage.

Through Marx's analyses of the economic divide between the two classes, he noticed that it created the labels of deviant and criminal. However, the two labels were only applied to the poor.

His belief still stands true today. Take for example the difference in treatment between white-collar criminals and street criminals.

Why is it that when big businessmen bribe the government, harm the environment, and steal from citizens, they are considered to be good at business, but when a street drug dealer, for example, sells pot to his peers and willing consumers, he is considered to be a criminal?

Even though both are doing illegal acts (one more damaging than the other), the economically powerful will not be labeled negatively, while the poor will.

Another example comes in the form of Shaun Goodman, a man who was recently sentenced to just one year of work release after getting into a dangerous car chase and receiving his seventh DUI.

Now if Goodman were poor, do you think the judge would have let him get off so easily? I'm going to say no, but what do you think?

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Marx felt that the capitalistic society was full of inequalities and never liked it, but believed that one day it would end because people would become too poor to sustain the system.

What are your thoughts on the conflict perspective of crime and deviance? Share them below.


  1. Yeah the justice system is twisted but it's not because of capitalism (cronyism? certainly) and definitely doesn't mean that Communism is awesome and we need to eviscerate the bourgeoisie to bring justice to the world.

    Sorry Marx, you were a twisted individual, not the savior of the poor like you like to think.

    Mai | Justice Up Site