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The analysis of class, state, and crime: A contribution to critical criminology

The analysis of class, state, and crime: A contribution to critical criminology
Ronald Owen Hinch


Department of Law, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1, CANADA.


Critical criminology has suffered from poor theoretical development. This has resulted not only in confusion with other radical criminologies, but also in distorting the objectives of Marxist inquiry. This thesis examines this confusion via discussions of class, the state, criminality and the scientific and ideological nature of Marxism. The objective is to demonstrate that a Marxist "critical criminology is both possible and desirable.

In order to avoid confusion with other perspectives, and to avoid an overly deterministic analysis, it is argued that critical criminology must recognise the importance of the distinctions between classes-in-themselves, classes-for-themselves and class fractions. Without a full understanding of these concepts it is possible to see the state as either a simple tool of a dominant elite, or an autonomous entity having a life of its own, rather than something created and controlled by human action. Further as a result of an overly simplistic analysis of the state it is possible to view crime as inevitably "revolutionary" rather than as something which may equally be counter to the interests of the working classes. Thus throughout the discussions of class, state and crime it is emphasised that much of critical criminology has left out the dialectics of Marxian analysis.

It is the failure to include the dialectic which has led some critics to argue that critical criminology is simply "ideology" or "unscientific." Thus care is taken in the final chapter to specify that Marxism is both ideological and scientific. It is ideological to the extent that it is to act as a political statement of the interests of the working class in the effort at crime control, and it is scientific to the extent that it offers an analysis of the way in which social formations organise their social, political and economic life.