Marxism and Criminology

A History of Criminal Selectivity


Winner of the 2017 Choice Outstanding Academic Title Award

In Marxism and Criminology: A History of Criminal Selectivity, Valeria Vegh Weis rehabilitates the contributions and the methodology of Marx and Engels to analyze crime and punishment through the historical development of capitalism (15th Century to the present) in Europe and in the United States. The author puts forward the concepts of over-criminalization and under-criminalization to show that the criminal justice system has always been selective. Criminal injustice, the book argues, has been an inherent element of the founding and reproduction of a capitalist society. At a time when racial profiling, prosecutorial discretion, and mass incarceration continue to defy easy answers, Vegh Weis invites us to revisit Marx and Engels’ contributions to identify socio-economic and historic patterns of crime and punishment in order to foster transformative changes to criminal justice. The book includes a Foreword by Professor Roger Matthews of Kent University, and an Afterword written by Professor Jonathan Simon of the University of California, Berkeley.
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Biographical Note

Valeria Vegh Weis, Ph.D. (2015), Buenos Aires University, is Professor of Criminology at that university, Quilmes University, and Federal Police University. She is a Fulbright Scholar and she has an LL.M. in International Legal Studies from the New York University School of Law, where she was a recipient of the prestigious Hauser Global Scholarship. She also received the International Human Right, and the Transitional Justice Fellowships. She has published several articles and translations in the fields of Criminology, Criminal Law, and Mental Health Law.

Review Quote

In this important work, Vegh Weis (NYU) does a brilliant and accessible job of applying Marxist theory to modern criminality. […] Throughout this work, Vegh Weis positions her inquiry in critical social theory that considers crime in its socioeconomic context.
Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates and above.

F. E. Knowles, Valdosta State University, CHOICE, September 2017

"El texto de Vegh Weis es una novedad que no debe pasar por alto porque se trata de una de las aventuras más audaces que se haya emprendido en los últimos tiempos en la arena de la criminología y la crítica jurídica. A lo largo de sus páginas, Vegh Weis describe y analiza, sintetiza y arriesga, en una prosa que sabiéndose fundamentada en una sólida investigación desarrollada en Argentina, en Estados Unidos y en Europa, y se desliza al terreno de nuevas teorizaciones, ese terreno siempre fangoso, logrando, empero, salir airosa."
- Juan Manuel Suppa Altman (Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina), in: Revista de Historia del Derecho, N° 53, January - June 2017, pp. 187-189

Table of contents

List of Tables and Figures

Chapter 1: Introduction
Criminological Theories and the Notion of ‘Criminal Selectivity’
‘Criminal Selectivity’ through the Work of Marx and Engels
Marx and Engels’ Contributions Did Not Analyze Crime and Crime Control in Deep.
Marx and Engels’ Contributions Understood Crime and Crime Control as Superstructural Aspects.
Marx and Engels’ Constributions Lead to the Failure of ‘Real Socialism.’
Marx and Engels’ Contributions Are Necessary to Analyze Crime and Crime Control
A Conceptualization of ‘Criminal Selectivity’ from a Marxist Perspective

Chapter 2: Original Criminal Selectivity
Where, How and When of the ‘Primitive Accumulation’ (Late 15th to Early 18th Century).
Original Conflict-Control
Original Under-Criminalization
Original Over-Criminalization
The Different Application of Penalization and the Transit from Physical Punishment to Workhouses
Who Were the Social Sectors Targeted by Original Criminal Selectivity?
Mixed insertion in the ‘Primitive Accumulation’
Punishment during Original Criminal Selectivity
Manifest Functions.
Latent Functions
Creating a Disciplined Working Class
Imposing a New Social Order
Fragmenting the Dispossed Sectors
Moral Entrepeneurs and Moral Panics
Brief Reflections

Chapter 3: Disciplining Criminal Selectivity
Where, How and When of the Disciplining Social Order (late 18th century- late 20th century).
Disciplining Conflict-Control
First Disciplining Phase: Legally-Disciplining Criminal Selectivity (Late 18th Century)
Legally-Disciplining Under-Criminalization
Legally-Disciplining Over-Criminalization
Second Disciplining Phase: Police-Medically Disciplining Criminal Selectivity (19th Century)
Police-Medically Disciplining Under-Criminalization
Police-Medically Disciplining Over-Criminalization
Third Disciplining Phase: Socio-Disciplining Criminal Selectivity (Early to Late 20th Century)
Socio-Disciplining Under-Criminalization
Socio-Disciplining Over-Criminalization
Who Were the Social Sectors Targeted by Disciplining Criminal Selectivity?
Mixed Insertion in the Disciplining Social Order
Punishment during Disciplining Criminal Selectivity
Manifest Functions
Retribution or ‘Just Deserts’ Theory
Specific Deterrence/Incapacitation Theory
General Deterrence Theory
Rehabilitation Theory
Latent Functions
Disciplining the Worker That Resisted the New Social Order and Its Guidelines
Disciplining the Entire Working Class
Fragmenting the Working Class
Moral Entrepeneurs and Moral Panics
Brief Reflections

Chapter 4: Bulimic Criminal Selectivity
Where, How and When of the Bulimic Social Order (Late 20th to 21th Century).
Bulimic Conflict-Control
Bulimic Under-Criminalization
Bulimic Under-Criminalization on the ‘War on Terror.'
Bulimic Under-Criminalization of Financial Manouvers
Bulimic Over-Criminalization
Bulimic Over-Criminalization on the ‘Social Junk.'
Bulimic Over-Criminalization on the ‘Social Dynamite’
Who Were the Social Sectors Targeted by Bulimic Criminal Selectivity?
Mixed Insertion in the Bulimic Social Order.
Punishment during Bulimic Criminal Selectivity
Manifest Functions.
Latent Functions
Incapacitating the problematic social sectors
Controlling the Modern Pauperism
Fragmenting the working class
Moral Entrepreneurs and Moral Panics
Promoting a ‘crime control industry’ and the omnipresent control of the social whole.
Brief Reflections

Chapter 5: Final Reflections.



All interested in Criminology, Criminal Law, Sociology of Law, History of Punishment, Marxism and the Law, and anyone concerned about the criminal justice system in Europe and the United States.


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