Socialjustice vs criminaljustice





TR Young


Distributed as part of the TRANSFORMING SOCIOLOGY SERIES of The Red Feather Institute, 8085 Essex, Weidman, Michigan, 48893.


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     This paper presents an overview of the features of crime
     and the criminal justice system in the United States.  It
     notes the great disparities in use of five systems of
     justice.  It discusses the amount and variety of
     corporate crime, political crime, street crime, white
     collar crime as well as organized crime.  It emphasizes
     the inadequacy of current theories of crime in so far as
     corporate, white collar and political crime are
     concerned.  The author argues that social justice is a
     far better way to prevent crime than are criminal justice
     systems and points to other societies with low crime
     rates.  The paper concludes with a radical agenda for
     American criminology.

INTRODUCTION:     The sociology of crime and social control is barely
mapped in American criminology and less understood. 
A. There are five kinds of crime which are derived and are 
endemic in capitalist relations. Only those which threaten
existing structures of privilege are treated in most 
Criminology texts.
B. There are several policing and punishing structures 
in the state sector as in the private sector. The Criminal
justice system is treated as if it were the only system of 
social control relevant to criminology.
C. There are a half dozen "theories" of crime which are
patently false but assiduously disseminated in American 
criminology as 'scientific' explanations of crime.
The question for an affirmative postmodern criminology is how to 
understand the sources of crime:  conservative theory points to 
individual character; radical theory to social relations.
The question of social policy is how to get safe and decent
communities.  Conservative criminology points to pain and punishment.
Radical criminology suggests that social justice is the better path
way to social order than is criminal justice.
The conservative solution is more prisons, more police, faster trials, 
harsher sentences, and closer surveillance.  The radical policy is 
more social justice and less criminal justice.  
The macrotheoretical position put forward in this paper asserts that
crime and political oppression in the U.S. emerge out of the same 
dynamics which creates the prosperity, the creativity and variety, 
the surging energy and growth as well as the studied leisure for 
whole new sectors of the population. 
I do not want to be mistaken.  The argument is not that crime is a 
necessary and inevitable part of growth, prosperity and human 
activity.  Quite the contrary.  I want to put the case that crime 
varies with several conditions all of which could be brought under 
human agency.  
It is not the blind operations of biology, of history or of economy 
which produce crime.  It is human agency in the form of a changing 
set of policy makers in the state sector and deliberate decisions 
in the private sector which sets up the objective conditions in 
which crime increases or decreases.  
There are societies with low crime rates and safe cities.       
BAD THEORY AND BAD POLICY:   The indicators of a poorly organized
social life world impel us toward better theory and better policy
in criminology than we now enjoy.  Some idea of the failures in
policy can be seen from the following data.  The prison population
in the U.S. is at an all-time high (Bureau of Justice Statistics,
1983).  There are 175 inmates per 100,000 population in the U.S.
for a total of 425,000.  This does not include county and city
jails which hold about the same number of short-term prisoners. 
Nor does it include youth who have been diverted to group homes, to
the military or to supervised probation.  Only the Union of South
Africa and the U.S.S.R. put people in prison at such high rates. 
Not very good company.  Two million wives are beaten by their
husbands each year.  Five million are hit routinely.  In 1981,
almost 1/3 of American households experienced violence or theft. 
The homicide rate reached its highest level in 1980.  The nation
spends over 3 percent of its public funds on the criminal justice
system, a growth industry.  The U.S. spent over 34 billion on
prisons and policing last year. Only 6 percent of burglaries, 21
percent of robberies, 5 percent of forgeries and 1 percent of  drug
sales result in arrests (BJS, 1983: 4).  Serious crime has
increased by 200 percentage between 1960 and 1975 (Feagin, 1982:
	The National Institute of Justice reports that one third of
the employees in a sample of retail, manufacturing and service
organizations report stealing company property.  The estimated loss
is between 5 and 10 billion dollars (BJS, 1983: 11).  Corporations
violate a wide variety of laws with studied impunity:  labor laws,
environmental protection laws, product safety laws, banking laws,
currency regulations, worker safety laws, tax laws and campaign
contribution laws regularly ignored by the largest corporations. 
Price fixing alone is estimated by the Senate Judiciary
Subcommittee to cost consumers some 174 billion dollars annually. 
These corporate crimes are seldom tallied, reported, policed, or
punished (Clinard et al., 1979).  At the same time corporation
crime is ignored, peaceful and legal political protest is brutally
policed.  Over the years, Federal and state agencies have arrested
tens of thousands of peaceful political protesters from the tax and
mercantile protests of the colonial era to the demonstrations
against war and nuclear weapons in the 60's, 70's and 80's (Balkan,
	Hundreds of people were arrested in New York in 1984 for
political protest of the arms race. The F.B.I. has committed
thousands of burglaries, established five illegal and
unconstitutional programs to disrupt women's movements toward
social justice, minority movements toward civil rights, citizen
opposition to Viet Nam as well as socialist worker parties in the
U.S.  The C.I.A. routinely violates U.S. law, International law and
the laws of the various nations in which it works on behalf of the
world capitalist system (Agee, 1975; Wise and Ross, 1964).  The
U.S. routinely supplies and trains police in states with oppressive
	This effort is directly connected to the murder, torture,
and imprisonment of progressive labor, religious and student
leaders (Chomsky and Herman, 1979).  In Grenada, the U.S. was in
violation of the U.N. Charter, the O.A.S. Charter and International
law (Young, 1983).  Recently, the U.S. has been found guilty of
violating an international trade treaty by cutting off sugar
imports from Nicaragua for political reasons.  The judicial system
in the U.S. is systematically biased against Blacks, women, and
political protestors (Feagin, 1982).  The advocacy system is a
commodity in which the poor are denied adequate legal counsel and
the larger corporations richly supplied.  The prison system is a
growth industry which confines mostly poor people and/or minorities
in miserable conditions said to produce more crime than it
discourages.  Unarmed minority youngsters are often killed by the
	But American criminology has neither the theory nor the
policy with which to order these data.  In the sections which
follow I want to supply some sociology as a foundation for better
policy.  First, I said earlier that the field of American
criminology is barely mapped.  American criminology focuses upon
street crime and the criminal justice system as its natural world. 
I suggest that a proper criminology must examine all forms of
crime, all systems of justice and all theories of crime before it
may begin to get good theory and good policy.  In the next three
sections, I will chart some neglected territory for the next
generation of American criminologists.   
SYSTEMS OF JUSTICE:  There are five very different systems of
justice in the U.S.  There is the criminal justice system with
about 800,000 public police based upon retributive responses to
crime.  The criminal justice system handles crimes of
predation mostly poor, minority and/or young offenders.  It is
imbued by a mean spirited vengeance and security logic.  It uses
violence and degradation routines for both purposes.  Corollary to
the public system is a vast private security system employing about
the same number of persons to police crime within corporations. 
This system polices the customers, employees, and competitors of
the corporation.  It is informed primarily by the logic of
distributive justice.  The aim is not to punish or confine
offenders but rather to advance the corporate goals of profit,
growth and a favorable public image.  The judges in this system are
the top and middle management before whom cases are brought and
adjudicated.  The Bill of Rights seldom informs proceedings in this
system but a rough justice does  result; certainly more equitable
than in the criminal justice system in the state sector. 
A second system of justice is that of peer review.  In the academic 
world, in the medical field, in the legal profession as in large scale
bureaucracies, when one violates a professional canon, one can be 
brought before a hearing in which one's peers adjudicate guilt and 
assign penalty.  As a parallel legal system, it serves quite nicely to
protect the image of the profession, to employ constructive social 
control measures, and to keep white, middle class males out of jails 
and prisons. 
A third major system of Justice is that of contract, administrative 
and tort law.  This system polices and judges the activity of 
organizations rather than persons.  It includes all the federal 
agencies the populist movement created in the 1920's and 1930's.  
The F.C.C., I.C.C., S.E.C., F.D.A., as well as civil law.  
When corporations do wrong they are not arrested, indicted, tried, 
sentenced or incarcerated. 
They are directed to perform as agreed or to right a wrong done. 
Again, distributive justice imbues this system of control.  The
"police" are mostly lawyers who are polite, patient and considerate
of business criminals.  As a system of social control, it serves
admirably to enable the owners of a corporation to profit from the
endemic criminal activity of the corporation while bearing no
personal culpability.  Corporations, while a legal fiction, are
very real as criminals and as a buffer to criminal indictment.  The
corporation as an entity may be fined or some employees, rarely,
sent to prison but owners never.  If the corporation is ordered by
competent authority to dissolve, it is a simple matter to
incorporate a new business in a more friendly state or nation and
continue to violate health, safety, environmental, tax, fiscal,
labor or other law (Young, 1981a). 

     The fourth system is the medical justice system.  It is
staffed by psychiatrists, doctors, clinical social workers,
counselors, psychologists and nurses.  It serves up justice to the
sons and daughters, spouses, friends and parents of the middle
classes.  If one has enough money, one can find doctors who will
certify that one is mad or sick rather than bad.  The interest in
this system  of justice is neither  distributive justice nor
retributive.  The interest is the safety and welfare of the
culpable individual well matched to the logics of privatized
individualism and commodity security which informs all predatory
relations (Young, 1982).

     Once there was a fifth system of religious justice in place
which had as its nexus prosocial behavior but that system is a
casualty of competitive individualism and mass religion.  Religious
functionaries policed human behavior, condemned antisocial
activity, counseled good (as locally defined) and occasionally
banished the incorrigible to perdition. 

     Currently the first four systems mediate wrongful behavior in
ways compatible with the class, status and power of the criminal. 
The religious system is also biased greatly by the prevailing
stratification system but once in a while a prophet will castigate
the rich and powerful.  The Pastoral letter of the Conference of
American Bishops (1983) is an interesting effort to mediate the
evil of Nuclear Warfare policy of superstates.  The interest of the
radical right in renewing the teaching of religious values is not
altogether unconnected to the failure of formal control systems. 
Stripped of the God talk and of the overburden of guilt and shame,
there is much merit in this approach. 

     There is a sixth system of state welfare which offers a meager
and mean spirited form of distributive justice for all those
bypassed, disemployed or crippled in mind and body by predatory
social relations.  Oriented mainly to women, children, the aged and
other powerless sectors of the surplus population, this system
tries to repair the harm done to such persons by advanced monopoly
capital.  A sociological approach to the study of harm and of
justice would try to fit all these forms of justice with all the
forms of crime and present the whole picture to the public sphere
for discussion and policy. 
A seventh system of Justice involve private police, private courts
private prisons.  It is a very large and growing system in which
cases are heard, guilt adjudicated, punishments assigned and rulings
In addition to these seven public and quasi-public systems of crime
and punishment; of social wrong and social control, there is a fairly
large underground system of social control.  It includes secret and
unauthorized state units which police and punish people without 
benefit of court, constitution or complaint.  It includes groups
who share blacklists in academia, in politics, in sports, in religion
and in business.  Then too, there are the various right-wing 
Organizations which police and punish people as well as a few 
scattered Leftwing groups who bomb, shoot, beat and otherwise give
out their private version of justice.
     But American criminology is not a sociological enterprise; it
is on the one hand an exercise in political indoctrination largely
controlled by power elites and on the other an exercise in
demoralized technical rationality in which its function is to train
the security forces of the United States in what little management
science and behavioral modification an angry, brutal and vengeful
system will allow. American criminology is a disgrace to the good 
name of social science.
American criminology, then, does not study, theorize or measure
the happiness and despair of the various justice systems in
Taking all major systems together, for the differing approaches to 
control, for their differing costs to the public, one can see that 
the crimes of the rich and powerful are treated gently indeed while 
the crimes of the poor and powerless are treated brutally.  

Which kinds of crime entails the greatest harm to the health and 
welfare of the public is an open question.  
Which is the more effective is the pressing question. At
least 6,000 workers die and 2.7 million are injured through
corporate negligence each year in the U.S.  70 to 90 percent of
these accidents could be prevented if profits were not a major
consideration (Feagin, 1982: 311312).  Considering the 50,000 or
so murders in the U.S. each year, it is hard to say which kind of
death is the greatest wrong.  They are equally unnecessary and
equally disruptive of a family.  The officers of Equity Funding
Corporation stole more from the public than all of the robberies
and burglaries that year (Feagin, 1982: 281).  Which form of theft
is the more harmful cannot be easily gauged.  The poisoning of air,
water, and ground by chemical corporations may be more harmful to
more people than all the muggings, assaults, and murders policed by
all the policing agents of all the states.  90% of the cancer
deaths are said to be preventable and it is the tobacco, chemical
and industrial corporations which push carcinogens.  

All this argues that there are severe forms of crime not policed while the
forms of crime which are policed are not effectively controlled by
whatever system of crime and justice is used. All this is the dark
side of life in the richest, most powerful and most democratic
society in the history of the world.  One must consider whether the
dynamics which give rise to crime, to various justice systems, and
other underground structures are caused by individual traits or
arise out of the ordinary operations of the massified life of
advanced monopoly capitalism.  I will make a case, taken from
earlier papers, that this is indeed the case (Young, 1975, 1981,
1982, 1983).  The case is made in brief after a short critique of
existing "theory" in American criminology.

There are a wide variety of theories deployed in the
research, in the texts, in the penal systems of the United States. 
These are little more than glosses for whatever conservative or
liberal politics to which the writers subscribe.  Durkheim (1893)
argued that a breakdown in social norms produced crime.  He called
this "anomie."  But most political crime, corporate crime and vice
are well ordered.  They resonate with the values and beliefs of the
majority and do not reflect a breakdown in the social order. 
American citizens cheered the Reagan administration when it
violated international law, various treaties and charters to which
the U.S. is signatory in the Granada invasion.  Corporate crime is
driven by the same well instituted goals of profit, control and
growth as other American business.  Pornography, prostitution, drug
use and illegal betting are part and parcel of the sexist, escapist
and accumulation ethics of Americans.  
As a theory, anomie is pathetic; as a gloss for 
law and order policy, it is superb.   

Everyone must accept middle class commodity morality or, failing
that, quickly caught and quickly jailed.  Merton's (1957)
endorsement of anomie as an explanatory schema slowed progress for
thirty years in American criminology.  Anomie theory violates a
cardinal canon of causality.  That which does not exist (anomie)
cannot cause that which does exist (crime).  Constraint theory
violates another canon.  That which is a constant (constraint)
across both criminal and prosocial behavior cannot be adduced to
explain that which varies.  Such theories violate basic
experimental design theory in science.  The work of Richard Quinney
in the United States finally challenged the Durkheim-Merton
hegemony in theory through the 1970's, but most texts praise Merton
and skim over Quinney. Theories of racial or genetic inferiority
are patently false and obviously compatible with conservative 

They deflect attention from social organization, social inequality,
and social sources of crime while they legitimate a repressive and 
selective policing of individuals,  groups and races.  Controlling 
for disemployment, the relationship between race and crime 
disappears (reported in Balkan, 1983: 80).  
White collar criminals are frequently Northern European in origin 
and have the usual number of chromosomes.  Corporations have no 
chromosomes at all and commit crime.  Blood sugar levels, hormone
deficiencies and "overwhelming" sexual drives are equally unrelated 
to the criminal behavior of presidents, soldiers, and rapists. 
A few prisoners are found to have extra supplies of genes, 
blood sugar or hormones and the "theory" explodes in the literature. 
White collar criminals, corporate officers, soldiers and presidents 
are not studied.  
Such a flawed research design would be contemptuously dismissed in a
biology, physics, or geology journal.  It is called science in
criminology. Differential association theory (Sutherland, 1947),
the grandparent of American criminology, cannot be a theory of
crime since it is a theory of socialization generally.  It is a
scientific sin to use a factor that appears in all behavior to
explain a special form of behavior.  White collar criminals do not
differentially associate with drug pushers, sexual psychopaths or
corporation presidents.  White collar criminals are bright enough
to figure out how to cheat the company without being taught. 
Differential association theory explains equally well why doctors
do doctoring, priests preach and criminals steal but it is not a
theory of crime.  Differential association theory begs the question
of why corporate officers require their lieutenants to violate food
laws, labor laws or tax laws.  It avoids the question of why street
thugs rob and rape.  It neglects the dynamics of commodity
sexuality and perverted masculinity.  But it does redirect focus
from the political economy of a society to social interactional
processes. The same is true for its near cousin, labeling theory. 
People who are labeled criminals and put in prison do differently
associate with street thugs and are, in fact, more likely to become
a street thug.  But the same is true of a physician or a priest. 
Put a person in medical school, label her an intern, teach her
medical technology, define her as a "doctor," and she is very
likely to become a doctor.  
     Labeling theory can't be a theory of crime any more than it
is  a theory of medicine or of religion.  It does serve nicely for
liberal sociologists to help justify policies which keep kids out
of jail; a nice enough desire but scarcely science.  Jails and
prisons are not good for anybody, even wardens. Culture of poverty
theories such as Lewis (1959) cannot be adequate to an
understanding of crime since they do not deal with crimes of the
rich, corporate crime, white collar crime or the behavior of
priests and nuns who take vows of poverty or with all the many
societies such as the Hutterites and Hopi who live in virtually
crimefree relations.  A better variable is relationship to the
means of production as we shall see below.  
Drift Theory (Matza, 1964), Control/Bond Theory (Hirschi, 1969),
or Containment Theory (Reckless, 1973) are equally flawed.  
     They simply ignore the crime of white collar criminals,
soldiers, corporations, organized crime members who are bonded,
contained, and who do not drift.  Again, the very special bias in
American criminology which leads one to look everywhere except at
the political economy for explanations to crime yields bad theory;
bad theory makes for bad policy. Hirschi claims delinquency is made
possible by an absence of beliefs that prohibit delinquency (1969:
198).  Again, one cannot explain that which does exist by that
which does not exist.  This is possible in magic, poetry, and
religion but not in science.  Albert Reiss uses this same mystical
approach in his paper, "Delinquency as a failure of personal and
social controls."  
     Corporate officers are issued orders to fix prices, employees
must dump harmful chemicals else get fired, delinquent fathers
don't pay alimony because they are determined to spend the money on
the new wife.  Boys and girls either join in gang activity or are
subject to ridicule and/or beating.  The personal and social
controls are there.  They produce crime.  The prior question is why
social controls are used to fix prices, deal drugs, dump chemicals
or steal hubcaps.  Profit and personal gain may have something to
do with it. One could go on in this vein endlessly.  The theories
of crime taught in establishment sociology are exercises in
careless thinking.  It is an embarrassment to have to mention them
in the presence  of students and colleagues in other disciplines. 
A better view of these theories is that they are ideology.  Modern
criminology is ideology.  It serves to reproduce existing systems
of law, of policing, of justice and of corrections.  It is not
FORMS OF CRIME: There are five major forms of crime that are
directly linked to the dynamics of capitalism.  Corporate crime,
street crime, organized crime, political crime and white collar
crime all have differing sets of dynamics.  None of these crimes
has any special relationship to poverty, to social drift, to genes,
to racial traits, to ethnic variables, to differential association,
hormones or deviant subculture.  They do relate to such social
variables as separation from the means of production, predatory
individualism, profit, political legitimacy, life crises, and the
commodification of sacred supplies.  Of these five, only street
crime and organized crime are studied extensively in American
criminology. Corporate crime includes violations of tax laws,
currency laws, product safety laws, environmental protection laws,
worker safety laws, collective bargaining laws and campaign
contribution laws. 
CORPORATE CRIME    Corporations in a capitalist economy have three goals in
conflict with these laws:  profit, growth and control of the
business environment.  When the goals of production are changed to
those which protect workers, which serve human need and which
preserve the environment, the impetus to crime is reduced.  But the
corporation would no longer be a capitalist corporation.  It would be a socialist corporation (Young, 1975). Political
crime in the U.S. has two major forms. The first entails crimes of
the state against its own citizens and laws.  The second entails
crimes of citizens against their own state.  One can understand
political crime only in terms of the structural contradictions in
a society.  In the U.S., there is formal (and real) democracy in
the political sphere together with authoritarian (bureaucratic)
relations in the private sector.  In order to maintain political
legitimacy the Congress must pass laws protecting  workers,
consumers and the environment.  In order to protect capitalism the
state must go underground to destabilize movements toward democracy
in the workplace; in stores, shops, and factories. 
POLITICAL/STATE CRIME     The State must protect American capital 
overseas.  It works in secret to subvert political opposition to 
such action (Chomsky and Herman, 1979).  
A vast network of underground policing structures develop in 
capitalist democracies (Young,1983).  At the same time, citizens 
try to use institutional politics to gain social justice and, 
failing, go underground and try to use force to achieve their needs.
Workers, peasants, Blacks, small business people all turn to 
Political crime in elitist systems when institutional politics 
don't work.  Theories on bonding, drift, oedipal complex, constraint,
anomie or association simply do not deal with the central dynamics 
of political crime. Organized crime deals in the privatized 
production of those solidarity supplies used in most societies to 
establish and celebrate cherished social relations (Young, 1972).  
ORGANIZED CRIME  Alcohol, drugs, sex, violence, gambling, usury and
protection are oriented to the creation of community and a sense of
the sacred in traditional societies.  The production and use of
drugs is defined as right and proper if used in religious or male
solidarities in a variety of societies.  It is defined as corrupt
to use them for private purposes in these societies.  The same is
true for sex, alcohol, risk, violence as well as wealth.  There are
terms of opprobrium for such private use of sacred supplies: 
addiction, alcoholism, usury, perversion, gluttony and murder.  But
the logic of capitalist production oriented to profit rather than
to community does not scruple to produce and sell such solidarity
supplies for individual or nonsocial use.  Individuals alienated
from control over their social institutions can exercise a thin and
risky freedom in abusing their bodies.  Again, the usual theories
of crime fail to explain these activities.  Sometimes drugs and
sexuality are used for solidarity and sometimes for the facsimile
of solidarity.  
     Capitalism commodifies every cherished good or service.  These
solidarity supplies become market commodities in a profit oriented
society...sold to anyone for profit.  Capitalism has no interest in 
community or collective.  Privatized use of solidarity supplies is
most congenial to the individualism and market liberalism of
capitalism. White collar crime involves lawyers, doctors, bankers,
managers, clerks, and professors who violate their position of
trust in an organization for private gain.  This can best be
understood in terms of the dynamics of a competitive system of
production and distribution oriented to privatized accumulation and
consumption.  White collar workers have life styles which are
oriented to high levels of consumption.  Unexpected crises can
threaten life style.  Downturns in the economy, disemployment,
inflation, catastrophic illness of parents, spouse or children,
cutbacks in federal funding, divorce and other personal crisis can
propel an otherwise law abiding citizen to embezzle funds from
one's bank; compel doctors to perform unnecessary surgery (usually
on women undergoing a crisis of femininity); lead clerks to
systematically pilfer from cash boxes, induce professors to use
state property for privately paid consulting and so on.  
     Neither differential association theory, deviant subculture
theory, physiological variables such as blood sugar levels or
psychological variables such as insanity can explain this crime. 
It is done to create and protect a life style and a social
standing. Doctors must overcut, overbill and overpush drugs in
order to create an estate and a portfolio which will see them
through their senior years since the welfare state guarantees only
a minimal, degrading and insecure old age retirement program. 
Those in real estate, auto repair, stock brokerage, law, and small
shopkeeping are in an especially precarious position. They must,
willy-nilly, accumulate an estate or $700,000.00 or so.  Anyone who
doesn't is foolish in such a society.  In the social position they
occupy, they must cheat customers, evade taxes, exploit workers,
and bribe officials to survive and to build a portfolio.  It is
relationship to the means of production and one's position in the
political economy which is related to the amount and kind of crime
white collar criminals commit; not one's skin color, body chemistry
or fantasy life. Street crime; burglary, shoplifting, auto theft,
mugging, robbery, prostitution, and rape vary with a number of
factors including disemployment, privatized acquisition, racial
hostility, authoritarian relations, distorted sexuality, and
compulsive consumption.  
     Women who own only their body as a means of production can
sell it when they can't sell their labor power.  Young people
excluded from employment can steal autos, bikes, and stereos
advertised so energetically and thus reunite production and
distribution.  Men, caught up in authoritarian relations at work
can transfer the alienation of work into brutality toward women and
children.  Thus they reclaim, in the family, the power lost at work
in distorted form.  Sexuality which is used as a commodity in
thousands of ads, as a male solidarity device in myriad "jokes,"
and which is oriented to violence in a hundred movies create a
masculinity crisis in which rape and psychological violence toward
women seems natural.  A conflict-ridden society, using force to
resolve societal conflict, models the behavior of all parties in
personal relations.  None of these dynamics is connected to
genetic, physical or psychological variables taught as theory in
criminology texts.
     Violence varies with social and cultural formations, not with
physical and psychological variables except as a learned response
to the culture of violence in which people must live their days in
some societies.  In other societies, people with the same genes,
same body chemistry, same drives do not murder, rape, pillage or
prostitute themselves. Separated from the means of production,
taught that consumption is the supreme test of the good life,
socialized to privatized accumulation, living in class, racial,
ethnic and gender conflict, recruited by organized crime to buy and
sell, young people live in a crimogenic environment.  One could
scarcely design a better milieu for crime were one to try.  Social
welfare and the criminal justice systems are too little and too
loose a means to control crime. The dynamics of capitalist
production are intimately related to the conditions above.  
     Production for profit requires that ownership reduce costs,
especially labor costs.  Automation, investment in capital
intensive production, relocation to cheap labor markets, and
superexploitation of existing workers all hurl millions of workers
into the surplus  population and keep more millions out, especially
young minority males.  With such disemployment, and with such
compulsion to consume, people have but five major ways to reunite
production and distribution.  They can sell their labor power in
low wages and in part-time markets; they can turn to the kinship
structure for resources; they can beg from private charity; they
can humiliate themselves by applying for state welfare and they
can turn to crime.  A great many do all five in some combination. 
These are the mega-choices which limit all other choices. And one
must not forget that crime is very profitable as an underground
system of production and distribution.  
The drug industry, pot and coke, is a multibillion dollar industry
of rising importance in Florida, California, and Hawaii.  Even
sober, churchgoing farmers in Kansas raise pot.  Auto theft,
burglary, robbery, price-fixing, swindles, and prosti            
tution are multibillion dollar pursuits employing tens of
thousands.  If the economic sector embracing crime were to
disappear, the U.S. would face a depression of major proportions. 
Many legitimate businesses:  banks, hotels, restaurants, travel
services, real estate, automotive and personal service enterprises
make that little extra indirectly from crime which means the
difference between success and failure.  Without crime many would
fail.  Hundreds of thousands are employed in policing, processing
and feeding prisoners.  Police, lawyers, bonding companies,
construction firms, food wholesalers and hundreds of spinoff
businesses serve the criminal justice system.  Without crime, they
would be disemployed.  
     In capitalist societies, all this unproductive labor fuels
crime and inflates the economy.  Capitalism, as a system of
production and distribution, could not survive without crime,
especially corporate crime. Yet, as crime rates climb, capitalist
societies find it more difficult each year to secure the domestic
tranquility and must spend more of its resources on social control
technology. This, then, is an overview of a critical analysis of
crime in the U.S.  It sketches out the major forms of crime in the
U.S. and their relationship to the ordinary workings of a
capitalist economy.  It lays out the major systems of justice and
notes their  inadequacy as an approach to reduce crime in the face
of such powerful incentives to do crime.  It is in this context
that contemporary criminology puts forth its depoliticized and
mindless theory.  Bad theory makes bad policy.  It is this
distorted society that American criminology serves as a handmaiden
to power, privilege and punishment.  
AN AGENDA FOR CRITICAL CRIMINOLOGY In the last part of this paper
I want to build, from the first part, a critical criminology which
would serve the policy needs of our crime-ridden society.  In the
recommendations which follow, the emphasis is upon prevention of
crime by instituting programs of social justice in office, factory,
shop, store, school, health care, sports and home.  Rather than
production for profit, the emphasis here is upon production for
human need, for community, and for praxis. 
1)  THE ROLE OF CRIMINOLOGY.  The role of American criminology must
change.  At present, American criminology is little more than a
reporting service which describes the variety and incidence of
predatory crime.  Studying the correlates of crime in one society
is not adequate.  Investigating the careers of criminals in this or
that historical epoch is but part of the task.  In order to get a
comprehensive theory of crime and antisocial behavior, a mature
criminology must make transsocietal comparisons, must examine
antisocial behavior in the context of the social formation in
which it appears (Platt and Horton, 1983; Alder, 1983; Holyst,
     An adequate criminology must contrast wrongful behavior to the
social factors and social formations which produce prosocial
behavior.  It should study social relations and social position
rather than individuals.  It should study the position a society
has in a world system of economic production and political
privilege rather than just the people caught, indicted, and
imprisoned.  Holyst has sketched out such a cross-societal research
design (1981: 98).  But most of all an advanced criminology must
not be mystified by conceptual constraints which deflect attention
from the research designs which  challenge the legitimacy of
existing social formations. 
2)  A SOCIOLOGY OF CRIME.  If one would protect a society from
critical reflection, one would do well to locate the sources of
crime in nonsocial factors.  American criminology does just that. 
The various texts and articles in criminology emphasize such
physical factors as genetics, body type, blood sugar levels, and
age.  They focus upon such psychological variables as moral
development, childhood trauma, values, bonding, brain damage and
intelligence as a source of crime.  Such interactional variables as
differential association, residence (urban/rural), age grade
linkage, and prior socialization in games, sports and religion are
thought to predict on crime.  Even geographical variables such as
temperature, humidity, length of daylight, and altitude are brought
forward to explain crime.  Agriculture varies with geography but it
is not used as a theory of agribusiness. A more sociological
approach would look at social relationships and social position. 
Persons separated from the means of production and thus from
systems of distribution may reunite production and distribution
through crime.  
     Disemployment does predict upon crime rates against poverty
(Balkan, 1983: 68), upon imprisonment rates (Balkan, 1983: 70), and
upon family violence (CBS Reports, 13 August, 1983).  If one wishes
to pursue policy which inhibits crime, labor intensive systems of
full employment would be advisable.  Jobs not jails. Private
capital disemploys people by deserting low profit, labor-intensive
lines of production for high profit; by introducing automated lines
of production; by disinvesting in high cost labor markets; by
deserting communities in the U.S. for free rides in the
Third World; by diverting capital from socially necessary
production toward speculative finance investment.  In a legal
system where these property rights are permitted, the conditions
for crime are promoted.  There are two kinds of data which support
a social relations theory of crime:  within capitalist societies,
crime varies with disemployment (Brenner, 1976); forms of crime
vary between capitalist and socialist relations of production and
distribution  (Adler, 1983; Brady, 1981; Cantor, 1974; Holyst,
1981; Platt and Horton, 1983). 
     Persons located in a consumer oriented economy and with income
inadequate to pursue such high levels of consumption are
objectively in a crime prone position.  This includes doctors,
lawyers and professors whose income cannot always match expenditure
requirements for an affluent middle-class life style.  People who
have no secure relationship to the means of distribution after
retirement must, if prudent, accumulate far more than they can
possibly spend in order to provide for an uncertain future. 
Persons in a position of trust must look ahead to less certain
positions in the distributive system and cut corners to protect
their position. 
     Corporations, caught in a profit squeeze, beset by employees
demanding higher wages, better retirement benefits, more medical
benefits, adequate vacation benefits, necessary unemployment
benefits, safe working conditions, control over the work process
and respect on the job are in a crime prone situation.  These
demands are costly and reduce profits.  Capitalist corporations
must use and discard employees to avoid these demands.  Add to that
competition from other national and foreign corporations,
environmental protection laws and taxation patterns all in a
context of a demanding Board of Directors and profit hungry
stockholders, venal politicians and cagey suppliers then one has
all the ingredients for corporate crime. One does not need genes,
ethnicity, penis envy, childhood trauma or heat waves to develop a
theory of corporate crime.  
     Generally, a critical criminology studies people and
organizations in the social relations in which they must live out
their lives. 
the U.S. is severely crippled by its definitions of crime.  Since
the crime defining process operates within the logics of any given
social formation in history, the concept of crime varies with the
logics of the economic, political, familial, and religious
institutions making up that formation.  Much of the antisocial
behavior of a feudal, slave, or class society is taken as
unproblematic even though it is antisocial on a number of counts. 
Endangering the health of workers, consumers or future generations
is  antisocial but not illegal in the narrow definition of crime in
a capitalist system or in a legal system controlled by capitalist
logics.  Since the law making apparatus in the U.S. is controlled
by the rich and powerful (Domhoff, 1967; Parenti, 1974), the
concept of crime is bent in their direction.  
     American criminology accepts that bias as unproblematic. 
Crime is much more than the narrow concept used in American
criminology.  Disinvesting in socially necessary lines of
production such as child care, education, housing, and low energy
transport is not conceived as a crime in the various legal codes of
the U.S.  Exploiting workers is not called a crime.  Deserting
communities is not considered crime.  Drawing wealth and food from
the poorest countries in the world is not considered crime. 
Imperialism, economic exploitation and wars of oppression are not
conceived to be criminal.  It takes a technologically oriented
mentality to exclude these acts from a study of crime. A critical
criminology needs to distinguish between necessary repression and
surplus repression.  
     Necessary repression is that required to create a decent
social life world and should be the foundation of criminal law. 
Surplus repression is that repression necessary to reproduce the
structures of class, gender, national, racial, or authoritarian
privilege.  It is necessary to repress the unnecessary repression
of women, workers, minority groups and political dissidents.  More
generally, human rights should ground criminal law.  Every act
hostile to the human process should be the subject of repression. 
criminology courses are oriented to criminal justice programs
inserted into the University by the L.E.A.A. sponsorship of
American Criminology.  This strips American criminology of its
critical self reflective dimensions and reduces it to a
one-dimensional positivistic science.  There is a sort of keynesean
political economy in American criminology.  The state injects money
into the knowledge process in order to stimulate the production of
the kind of knowledge necessary to make the officially given
criminal justice system work.  
     In such a science, criminology is little more than a record
keeping enterprise coupled with the training of technicians to 
staff the criminal justice system.  It has no philosophy; only a
technology.  It has no questions; only answers.  It has no science,
only a politics.  It has all the critical and theoretical elegance
of a school for morticians.  Rather than seeking to motivate, train
and place students in the criminal justice system, criminology
should critically analyze the systems of social control in American
society.  It should distance itself from any given system of law,
of corrections, of political philosophy or of economic endeavor. 
It should stand outside of the particular history of politics of
any given society but inside the human project. As indicated
earlier, there are in the U.S. several justice systems.  
     The criminal justice system is for the poor, the young, and
for minorities.  It embraces retributive justice.  Private justice
systems are for white collar criminals and corporate criminals. 
They operate on the nexus of distributive justice.  The Medical
Justice System is used to keep the middle class out of the Criminal
Justice System.  It operates on the idea of individual welfare. 
Psychiatrists, Clinical Social Workers, Physicians and Clinical
Psychologists provide gentle and sympathetic treatment for drug
addicts, alcoholics, shoplifters, murderers and child molesters who
happen to be wealthy enough to claim sickness or madness
An effective sociology of crime control would examine side by side
alternative methods to get a safe and decent society. The fact is
that most people who engage in crime and antisocial behavior cease
such behavior as they become integrated into work, family,
friendship and community roles.  Putting people in prosocial roles
early on in life may be a better way to deal with crime than is
punishment.  However, the larger social factors which discard
people must be transformed else no justice system, criminal, civil,
medical or prosocial will work.  
     Without social justice, there will be ever more subjects for
such systems.  There promises to be an ever growing cycle of people
through the criminal justice system.  We have created a crime
machine which teaches young people greed, denies them work, tempts
them with overflowing wealth, which polices and imprisons them and,
in prison, improves their skills and techniques for harmful
     The  society which denies its young the resources to become
productive citizens does so at its own peril. It seems clear that
a stable and competent self system located in a network of stable
and cooperative social relations located in a system of stable and
mutually supportive social networks and institutions oriented to
produce a just and stable community is a better system of social
control than are police and prisons.  But stable self systems are
not the aim of school systems; marketable skills and compliant
workers are the aim in a market society.  The schools push the
young people out onto the street who don't fit into the sober,
compliant, punctual, quiet, attentive model used in factory, shop
and office.  
     Cooperative social relations are not the aim in a profit
oriented society; competitive self interest is the aim.  Mutually
supportive institutions are not the aim in class, racist, or gender
systems of domination: the growth and power of financial
institutions is given preference to the health and needs of family
institutions or other necessary institutions; health care, child
care, or energy efficient transport.  A just and stable community
is not the aim of the productive process in American society. 
Whether the community thrives or fails is of little concern in the
fiscal accounts of corporate capital; the bottom line is profit and
growth in market shares (Iadicola, 1983).
and other socialist countries emphasize social justice and they do
better in creating crimefree relations (Shelby, 1981; Brady, 1982;
Cantor, 1974).  On all the important measures of social justice,
socialist countries do better than countries with private capital
systems of production and distribution (Cereseto, 1983; Gorin,
1983).  Organized racketeering, government corruption, street crime
and political oppression have been substantially reduced in Cuba
and China (Brady, 1981: 22).  
     Moscow, Havana and other major socialist cities had safer
streets before the collapse and return to market dynamics in 1989.
According to Holyst there had been a steady decrease in crimes
related to social inequality in socialist countries (1981: 117). 
In Poland, there had been improvement  except for homicide, robbery
and burglary (121).  In Bulgaria, there had been a steady drop in
crime rates except murder, assault, morals and traffic offense
(121).  In Czechoslovakia, crime rates had increased during the
50's, dropped in the 60's, increased until 1972 and had improved
since then (122).  In East Germany there was a sharp decrease in
crime the first fifteen years of socialism and lower decline since
then.  Serious crime used to be rare (122).  Crime rates in Hungary
show a slight increase led by homicide (200 cases in 1976) (123). 
In Yugoslavia, the trend is unclear from the Holyst data but
appears low in Western terms.  There has been an increase in crime
against the economy, theft of social property, and bad checks
     Crime has dropped precipitously in Cuba according to
information provided this author by government officials. 
Organized criminals fled en masse to Miami at the earliest possible
moment. But it is not Soviet or Cuban socialism per se which
creates a low crime social milieu.  It is social justice.  Among
the Hutterites there is no murder, no divorce, no robbery, no
exploitation, no drug abuse, no mugging or sexual assault and there
is no poverty, no emphasis on privatized consumption as the essence
of the good life and no exclusion from the means of production or
distribution.  In Cuba, China, as in other low crime societies such
as the Hutterites, community, prosocial behavior and social justice
take precedence over profit, private accumulation, and affluent
life styles. If we are to deal with the ravages of crime: 
corporate, political and street crime; rape, assault, murder as
well as crimes against property, a vastly different criminology is
     American criminology has not given America the theory it needs
to develop such a a prosocial policy.  Instead it mindlessly
focuses upon interpersonal factors and studiously ignores the
social and economic factors which produce corporate crime, white
collar crime, street crime and political crime.  It is in sad
disarray having sold itself to a primitive criminal justice system
in which it has no other role than to collect and report crime
statistics, to train workers and to create poorly grounded
ideology.  It is a pathetic apology for the status quo and a
disreputable  discipline on the take from the state.  It should be
banned from all respectable universities or at the least placed on
probation until it gets its theoretical house in decent repair.


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