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Property Criminals as the Lumpenproletariat: A Serendipitous Finding

NCJ Number
Nature, Society, and Thought Volume: 3 Issue: 1 Dated: (1990) Pages: 39-55
Date Published
17 pages
Sixty male inmates who had committed many burglaries and armed robberies were interviewed to determine their decisionmaking based on the perceived benefits and risks of committing a crime.
The participants were all incarcerated in Tennessee prisons. Their interviews were all tape recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using standard qualitative data analysis focusing on the patterns involved. Results showed that the majority of these offenders can be grouped in a lumpenproletarian "class," as defined by Marx and Engels. They defined the lumpenproletariat as the "passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest lawyers of old society." The lumpenproletariat has also been described as the "excluded class," indicating their lack of a relationship to the means of production. Thus, these offenders generally lacked legitimate opportunities to earn a decent wage. Most had dropped out of school or were expelled at an early age and were unable to develop marketable job skills. When they did work, they generally relied on menial jobs and changed jobs often. They had all been previously incarcerated and thus stigmatized as ex-offenders. Many also viewed themselves as entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, they had not critically evaluated the system that excludes them. Rather, they attributed their problems to their individual faults and decisions. Excerpts of interviews, notes, figure, and 24 references

Date Published: January 1, 1990