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Tower of Babel - Marxist Criminologists and Their Critics (From Radical Criminology, P 139-148, 1980, by James A Inciardi - See NCJ-70047)

NCJ Number
M Mankoff
Date Published
10 pages
Criticism of Marxist criminology is analyzed in the works of Jackson Toby, Carl B. Klockars, and Austin Turk in an effort to point out the need for more sustantiated and directed exchange regarding Marxist criminology.
That anti-intellectual Marxism (i.e., shallowness in the research community) has affected criminology may be a result of Marx himself having paid little attention to the creation of law and the causes of crime, of the difficulty of distinguishing Marxist criminology from the liberal mainstream approach to the crime problem, and of the absence of a mature Marxist criminological tradition. If such intellectual shoddiness has characterized some criminology purporting to be informed by Marxist theory, neither Toby nor Klockars provides an appealing alternative. First, Toby attacks an issue that has not been a major concern of radical criminology, whether the lower social classes have a higher incidence of criminal behavior than the middle or upperclass. Second, he attacks radical criminologists for being opposed to all criminal sanctions, when there is hardly enough evidence to prove that they are opposed to punishing any criminal act. Meanwhile, Klockars may be correct in accusing many Marxists of comparing the imperfect social justice under capitalism with an idealized model of a socialist society which has never been realized in practice, but he turns around and presents a fanciful view of American society that is overly ideological. Klockars goes on to defend class systems as responsible for high culture and progress, but neglects to admit the negative consequences of the class systems. Moreover, Klockars avoids examining the extent to which the history of concrete societies have been shaped by the many, the few, or both in contention with each other, and instead, indulges in polemicizing. Finally, Turk's more sober and intelligent critique still falls down in its attempt to build universal theories of deviance, in that his critique must move to such a high level of abstraction to encompass all cases of the object of study that the result is banal. Approaches to study should be capable of locating specific institutional contradictions in types of societies which are likely to generate particular kinds of conflicts and resolutions. Three notes and six references are provided. For related documents see NCJ 70048-51 and 70053-62.


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