“Any reform must be based on the idea that a prisoner is not punished but reformed and made into a good citizen. If this object is once accepted, it would result in a complete overhauling of the prison system. (1)
There are two important theories on crime and deviance. Functionalism and Marxist theory. Functionalism is considered as a form of conservative ideology. According to Marxism, capitalism is the root cause of most of the crimes. Functionalists emphasize the positive role of crimes do to the social system. The reality is both the approaches to crimes need to be studied in relation to particular crime situation. The effect of one of them may be proportionately more. They are mutually inclusive, not exclusive. No two crimes are alike. Motives for no two murders are alike.
When the intellectuals argue on these theories, they take rigid stands. Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) (2) believes that there cannot be a crime-free society; crime is inevitable in societies. Even if all are saints, the differentiation will yet be there as some will follow the rules of sainthood more closely than the others. Marxists are on the other side of the fence. An unjust social order is the predominant cause for an individual to take up to the path of crime. If there is no exploitation, crime would not be there in the society. Marxists assert that criminal system is biased towards the ruling class, where as functionalists led by Durkheim articulate that crime is an integral part of all healthy societies.
Marx appears to have been relatively unconcerned by crime as a subject. He feels that it is the outcome of the capitalist social order. According to Durkheim, crime is beneficial in western society. It specifies the limits of permissible behavior and the crimes actually strengthen the moral fabric of the society. Criminal system is responsible for overt and covert social changes. The merits of a particular law and its application is constantly discussed in a court of law, several judicial angles are looked into, and the irreverent law, not in tandem with the changes taking place in the society, is modified or discarded. Abolition of child labor and augmentation of women’s rights needs to be understood from this aspect. Marxist theory takes the uncompromising stand, as to why crimes take place. Tim Newburn (3) writes, “Crime is a response to capitalism and its contradiction—crime is a logical or rational response to the structural position people find themselves in under capitalism and, in some cases, a form….deflects attention from the crimes of the powerful (including by the state itself)…crime is functional to capitalism…crime provides work for those in criminal justice and legitimizes the operation.”(p.256)
Marx takes on the repressive state apparatus, and holds it responsible for many types of crimes. Such a state protects the interests of the ruling class. The example cited relates to the laws of private ownership which is highly beneficial to the rich, and the law of trade unions governing the working class is merely a concession. Another serious lacuna is in the law of enforcement. Petty crimes committed generally by the poor, like shop-lifting, are heavily policed whereas the corporate crimes, intelligently committed by the rich to defraud the public money, go unpunished, and if at all investigated, they are subject to so many ifs and buts. Both functionalists and Marxists believe that money is the root cause of evil, but their perspective of looking at the evil is different.
(1)Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, First Prime Minister of India.
(2) Considered by many as the father of Sociology.
(3)Newburn Tim. Criminology: Willan Publishing; 31 Aug 2007.