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Karl marx: an unequal system

Conflict theory was greatly influenced by the work of German philosopher, economist, and social scientist Karl Marx. Marx believed that the general population was divided into two groups. He labeled the wealthy, who controlled the means of production and business, the bourgeois. He labeled the workers who depended on the bourgeois for employment and survival the proletariat. Marx believed that the bourgeois centralized their power and influence through government, laws, and other authority agencies in order to maintain and expand their positions of power in society. Though Marx spoke little of deviance, his ideas created the foundation for conflict theorists who study the intersection of deviance and crime with wealth and power.

C. wright mills: the power elite

In his book The Power Elite (1956), sociologist C. Wright Mills described the existence of what he dubbed the power elite    , a small group of wealthy and influential people at the top of society who hold the power and resources. Wealthy executives, politicians, celebrities, and military leaders often have access to national and international power, and in some cases, their decisions affect everyone in society. Because of this, the rules of society are stacked in favor of a privileged few who manipulate them to stay on top. It is these people who decide what is criminal and what is not, and the effects are often felt most by those who have little power. Mills’ theories explain why celebrities such as Chris Brown and Paris Hilton, or once-powerful politicians such as Eliot Spitzer and Tom DeLay, can commit crimes and suffer little or no legal retribution.

Crime and social class

While crime is often associated with the underprivileged, crimes committed by the wealthy and powerful remain an under-punished and costly problem within society. The FBI reported that victims of burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft lost a total of $15.3 billion dollars in 2009 (FB1 2010). In comparison, when former advisor and financier Bernie Madoff was arrested in 2008, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reported that the estimated losses of his financial Ponzi scheme fraud were close to $50 billion (SEC 2009).

This imbalance based on class power is also found within U.S. criminal law. In the 1980s, the use of crack cocaine (cocaine in its purest form) quickly became an epidemic that swept the country’s poorest urban communities. Its pricier counterpart, cocaine, was associated with upscale users and was a drug of choice for the wealthy. The legal implications of being caught by authorities with crack versus cocaine were starkly different. In 1986, federal law mandated that being caught in possession of 50 grams of crack was punishable by a ten-year prison sentence. An equivalent prison sentence for cocaine possession, however, required possession of 5,000 grams. In other words, the sentencing disparity was 1 to 100 (New York Times Editorial Staff 2011). This inequality in the severity of punishment for crack versus cocaine paralleled the unequal social class of respective users. A conflict theorist would note that those in society who hold the power are also the ones who make the laws concerning crime. In doing so, they make laws that will benefit them, while the powerless classes who lack the resources to make such decisions suffer the consequences. The crack-cocaine punishment disparity remained until 2010, when President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which decreased the disparity to 1 to 18 (The Sentencing Project 2010).

Questions & Answers

who was the founder of sociology
Juma Reply
Auguste Comte.
Brandon
difference between sociology and physiology
Osei Reply
sociology is the study of groups and their interactions but physiology is the study of the structures in living organisms and how they function
Bindum
human factors that lead to backwardness of the country
Moses Reply
why sociology became the youngest of social science
Kadar Reply
what is Rural sociology?
Fanele Reply
Historical beck ground of sociology
Kadhif Reply
what are the dichotomous approach and do they affect rural sociological perspective of postmodern society
isah Reply
What is the origin of sociology?
Jeremiah Reply
what is a commuter train
Yunana Reply
a rail transport service which primarily operates within a city or metropolitan area connecting it to suburban areas
Ibrahim
which founded sociology?
Gabriel Reply
Auguste comte because he is the one who coined the term sociology
Fanele
who founded sociology
Gifty Reply
I can say Abdulrahman Ibn Khaldum
Emmurana
is sociology a science?
Cyrus
Yes
Polli
how so? @Polli Pol
Cyrus
Auguste Comte
Gabriel
It's because sociology has the same characteristics as that of a science. For instance in sociology:-- testing is possible. In science also testing is also possible. That also makes it a science. Objectivity is possible in both sociology and science. both, use of research methods is possible
Polli
Both are imperical Both are methodological Prediction is possible All of that makes sociology a science. However it is important to note that sociology is not a natural science but a social science. Also Objectivity is not high as in science Also a research cannot predict human behavior
Polli
Yes. Auguste Comte and Durkheim support that sociology is a science
Polli
However Marx Weber, disagrees with the view
Polli
what is the difference between crime and deviance
deborah Reply
who founded sociology
Gifty
I can say it is Auguste comte because he is the one who coined the term 'sociology '
Fanele
what is social change?
Hrittika Reply
Changes with transforms social institutions
Saurabh
Which*
Saurabh
change in society....and change in culture is known social change
Shubham
change denotes any alternation or modification that takes place in any situation or any object change is dynamic process of society remains completely static.
Aman
What's the reference and citation for this information
malama Reply
which information
sumitra
feature of marriage
Sunita
function of marriage
Sunita
types of marriage
Sunita
merits of marriage
Sunita
features of marriage, function of marriage, types of marriage and merits of marriage
alois
functions of marriage
Margaret
types of cultures and it definations
Umar Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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