Here's a sample answer based on the 40 Mark Question from this month's in-class progress test. Note that it's not essential or even important to get 'everything' we learned into the essay. You need to pick the right combination of studies, theories, concepts and ideas to structure an essay (and ensure there's enough of them - and that they're all well evaluated - to get the full 40 marks).
Outline and evaluate Marxist explanations for crime 
From a Marxist perspective, crime is created by the structure and nature of capitalist societies. Capitalism creates crime through a variety of ways: By promoting and spreading values which result in criminality, by creating biased laws, by enforcing these laws selectively and finally by inciting rebellion among the working classes. These Marxist views were originally described by Willem Bonger in the early 1900s, but were revived and further developed in the 1970s and 1980s.
Marxists believe that, in a capitalist society, the basic human values are capitalist values. This is because capitalist ideology is promoted and spread throughout the socialisation process in order to maintain the system. Althusser believed this happened through two sets of institutions: The Repressive State Apparatus (RSA), which included the police and government, forcing people to conform to capitalist views and the Ideological State Apparatus (ISA) which included the family, media, education and religion, subtly ‘brainwashing’ the population to accept capitalist values. These values include greed, selfishness, aggression, competitiveness and the importance of wealth, power and material things. Wealthy people expressing these values often become successful. For example, Donald Trump has a reputation for being aggressive and using bullying tactics, for exerting power over women and for bending the rules to further his own business and personal interests. This has enabled Trump to become seen as a successful businessman and, now, the President of the USA. However, a working-class person expressing exactly the same values is more likely to get into trouble (for example, a working-class man aggressively bullying someone or breaking the law to try and make money is likely to get the attention of the police).
From a Marxist point of view then, the dominant values of capitalism create criminal tendencies in all social classes. However, Marxists note that wealthier people are much more likely to ‘get away with it’. Marxists demonstrate how the laws in capitalist societies are created by the bourgeoisie and they therefore ensure that these laws protect their own interests. Stephen Box demonstrated how the ruling classes socially construct the concept of crime in order that they are protected whilst the working classes are demonised. For example, Box showed how the concept of ‘murder’ has been used to define a very narrow range of acts (one person – usually a poor person – intentionally killing another). This particular act attracts the highest possible criminal sentence. However, other acts of ‘avoidable killing’ – for example, a factory owner killing dozens of employees due to not following health and safety regulations; a pharmaceutical company killing hundreds of people through marketing an untested drug – are not defined as murder and don’t tend to result in custodial sentences.
Laws in capitalist societies are not only created and defined to suit the ruling classes but are also enforced in their favour. Karl Marx himself believed that a function of crime was to keep some of the proletariat off the streets and then create employment for others to guard them. This reinforces the Marxist view of the law being selectively enforced. For example, a person stealing money from till at work is a criminal and will be prosecuted; if that person’s boss reduced a worker’s wages in order to gain more profit for him/herself, it would be seen as normal practice in a capitalist society. Likewise, a person falsely claiming disability benefits, costing society a few thousand pounds, is likely to be demonised by the media and hounded by the authorities, probably going to prison. But when the British government cuts disability benefits dramatically, leading to a huge leap in poverty and suicide amongst disabled people across the country, this is praised as good economic sense. In general, Marxist’s observe that ‘street crime’ (mostly associated with the working classes) is the main focus of the police and regularly results in custodial sentences. White-collar crime, corporate crime and state-crime are rarely detected or pursued by the police and even more rarely result in custodial sentences. These types of crime are much more serious and damaging for society, but the public is ‘brainwashed’ by the ISA into ignoring or overlooking them. However, critics of Marxism suggest that this is an exaggeration as many acts committed exclusively by wealthier people (e.g. insider trading) have been criminalised. They also argue that the law cannot always be biased when many laws (e.g. health and safety legislation, minimum workers) were designed specifically to help and benefit workers (although Marxists like Chambliss believe that such laws tend to help and benefit employers and corporations just as much, if not more).
Marxists believe that the ruling classes are always criminal because they pay workers less than they are worth, which is itself an act of theft. They also promote and sustain an unequal society within which they live lavish lifestyles while people around them are in poverty. Marxists believe that much working-class crime can be explained as acts of resistance and rebellion against this cruel system. The anger and status frustration felt by those at the bottom of society leads them to criminal behaviour as they fight back against the ruling classes. For example, Hebdige demonstrated how the skinhead subculture arose from the working-classes as an expression against them capitalist system that had destroyed their communities. Critics of Marxism point out, however, that most victims of working-class crime are other working-class people and that this explanation unrealistically romanticises deviants.
In conclusion, the Marxist view offers a very clear picture of how a social system can influence the behaviour of its members and how one group in society can use crime and criminal law to exert power over another. Its explanations for crime are compelling and can be easily reinforced by the endless examples of corporations, bankers, governments and other ‘ruling’ institutions and individuals seemingly ‘getting away with it’. However, Marxism can be considered a reductionist view, because it ‘reduces’ the problem to a single cause (the capitalist system) and ignores most other variables (e.g. individual motivation/choice). A key flaw in placing all the blame on capitalism is that it can be easily observed that crime occurs in every type of society, not just capitalist societies. Additionally, many capitalist societies (e.g. Switzerland) have very low crime rates. The maltreatment and exploitation of workers (e.g. through poor working conditions) can be argued to be just as (if not even more) prevalent in communist societies. Therefore, Marxism may give insight into the origins and causes of some criminal behaviour in capitalist societies, but it cannot claim to explain all crime or criminal behaviour. It is therefore only one angle on crime, rather than the full picture.
Crime & Deviance
A2 Unit: G673