Neo-Marxism: critical criminology

Taylor, Walton and Young agree with traditional Marxists that capitalism is based on exploitation and inequality, the state makes and enforces laws in interests of capitalism and capitalism should be replaced by a classless society, all which will hugely reduce crime and make society better, However, Taylor criticises traditional Marxism for its determinism; it sees workers driven to commit crime out of economic necessity. They reject this view, along with other theories that claim crime is caused by external factors e.g. anomie and blocked opportunities.


Instead, Taylor took a more voluntarist view (the idea that we have free will): crime is a conscious choice where people can choose whether to commit crime or not, they are not forced to if they are of the working class as there are policies in place such as the welfare state.

A fully social theory of deviance

Taylor aimed to create a ‘fully social theory of deviance’- a comprehensive theory that would help to change society for the better. This theory would have two main sources:

  • Marxists ideas about the unequal distribution of wealth and who has power to make and enforce the law
  • Labelling theories ideas about the meaning of the deviant act for the actor, societal reactions to it and the effects of the deviant label on the individual.

Feminists criticise both Marxists and Neo Marxists approaches for being ‘gender blind’. Others criticise Marxism for ignoring non property crimes and deviance. Left realists criticise Neo Marxists for romanticising working class criminals and Robin Hood’s fighting capitalism.