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Marxist criminology can be analyzed both as a theory of what is and as an
ideology of what ought to be. Theory must be examined by logic and empir-
ical evidence. An ideology and its vision of the good society must be exam-
ined by comparison with other ideologies and real societies based on com-
peting ideologies. Such comparisons would reveal that societies based on
Marxist ideology have been unjust and repressive and do not represent a
future for which criminologists should strive as Quinney urges them to do.

THEORY AND IDEOLOGY IN


MARXIST CRIMINOLOGY
Comments on Turk, Quinney, Toby,
and Klockars

RONALD L. AKERS
University of Iowa

My primary task in my role of invited commentator is to re-


mark on the original papers for this special issue of Crimin-
ology by Richard Quinney, Austin Turk, Jackson Toby, and
Carl Klockars. But I want in the process to make some general
comments related to what I see as the central issue to which all
the papers refer-the adequacy of American-style Marxist
criminology as both a theory of crime and criminal justice in
society and an ideology or political philosophy on which a
better society can be or has been built. Action may be based on,
and usually is based on, some combination of theory and ideol-
ogy. However, in spite of disclaimers often made to the con-
trary, I agree with Turk that the two, theory and ideology, are
clearly separable. A theory is judged primarily by comparison
with other theories and by empirical evidence on its validity. A
philosophy is judged primarily by comparison with other phi-
losophies and how it has worked in practice. I have written
elsewhere on this issue and have analyzed Marxist theory with-
CRIMINOLOGY, Vol. 16 No. 4, February 1979, 527-544
1979 American Society of Criminology 527
528 CRIMINOLOGY / FEBRUARY 1979

in the context of other theories and empirical evidence. That is


the only context in which Marxist thought can legitimately be
proffered and critiqued by criminologists qua criminologists.
Ideological polemics usually have no place in scholarly jour-
nals, but I admit that I have taken advantage of the invitation
to comment in this special issue by responding polemically in
places to the Marxist ideology in Quinney's paper mainly on
ideological and practical grounds. Those readers who know of
my work will not be surprised to learn that I find little empirical
support for Marxist theory in criminology. Here I point to
what I see as philosophical and practical failures in Marxism as
an ideology.
The editor of Criminology, James Inciardi, has given the
authors and commentators great flexibility and freedom in the
content, style, and tone of what we write. I shall avail myself of
that freedom by indulging in a very informal discussion rather
than presenting scholarly argumentation and analysis. Also,
the relevant literature is ably and amply cited in the papers
presented-here, and I have not felt the need to add space with
footnoting, referencing, and documentation. I shall also take
advantage of the flexibility of this forum to state personal
beliefs and commitments.
Therefore, I should state two possible sources of bias-
theoretical/ideological and personal. First my theoretical
stance is "nonpartisan" (to use Turk's phrase) pluralistic con-
flict theory. Ideologically, I abhor totalitarianism and re-
pression of human freedom and dignity in all its forms, but
especially in a form which is premised on atheism and the
systematic attempt to repress religious belief and practice.
Since in my opinion this describes all known and existing
communist regimes based on Marxist ideology, then obviously
I start with a bias against accepting assertions that a Marxist
or radical socialist revolution and transformation of American
society is a good thing. I think Quinney's assertions about the
need to bring about a socialist society that would be nonre-
Akers / MARXIST CRIMINOLOGY: COMMENTS 529

pressive are utopian and cannot agree that we should join in the
struggle to create a socialist society.
Second, it should be noted that I come to this disagreement
slowly and base it purely on intellectual and ideological
grounds which conflict with my personal bias. Richard
Quinney was my major professor and dissertation director, my
mentor, professional role model, and is my friend. Much of my
sociological and criminological interests were formed under
his tutelage. It is a tribute to his intellectual integrity and
educational philosophy that he inspired me to be interested in
the same problems as he, without indoctrinating me to take the
same approach with the same answers as he. Similarly, I have
known Bill Chambliss, a theorist prominently featured in the
paper by Carl Klockars, for some thirteen years. He was one of
my closest colleagues during the beginning period of my pro-
fessional career and I learned nearly as much from him as I did
from Quinney. Also, I have known Ted Turk, author of the
paper on analyzing official deviance, for fifteen years and have
had frequent professional contact ith him during that time. I
have been greatly influenced by all of these men not only by
reading what they have written (which in each case has been
influential and prolific) but also by my personal contacts with
them over the years. Each is a recognized leading figure in the
discipline, and I count each as a friend. Therefore, although my
theory and research interests and styles diverge considerably
from that taken by each of them, I start out with a bias in favor
of what he has to say.
I believe these biases have been neutralized when consider-
ing the empirical validity of theoretical assertions. The biases
remain in ideological assertions, but they, by definition, do not
allow of neutral analysis, and no apologies need to be entered
for them. Finally, I should say that however much I disagree
with Marxist criminology, I believe we should continue to hear
about it and respond to it. It is for that reason I organized and
moderated the plenary session on Marxist criminology at the
1977 American Society of Criminology meetings in Atlanta
530 CRIMINOLOGY / FEBRUARY 1979

from which come both the Turk and Quinney papers presented
here, and I welcome this special issue of Criminology and the
chance to contribute to it.

COMMENT ON THE PAPERS

I have written elsewhere about the central questions which


theories of crime and deviance must answer. The first major
question is how behavior gets defined as deviant and how
society responds to it. As far as criminology is concerned, this
is the question of the formation of law and operation of the
criminal justice system. The second question has to do with
explaining the development of deviant behavior and its distri-
bution in society, which in criminology is the question of cor-
relates and causes of criminal behavior. Except for early writ-
ings on culture and group conflict, conflict theorists seldom
have attempted to explain criminal behavior. They have, as
Klockars notes, concentrated on the first question of the for-
mation and enforcement of law. This is seen in both Turk's and
Quinney's papers, neither of which say anything at all about
causation of criminal behavior. Turk's is basically a frame-
work for analyzing labelling and reaction to criminal behavior,
applied especially to "political criminality." Quinney is mainly
interested in explaining the behavior of criminologists, both
those applied criminologists working in the criminal justice
system and academic criminologists. He does so in the same
way he explains all aspects of the law formation and enforce-
ment system -criminologists behave as they do "to control
anything that threatens the capitalist system." Ideologically
or politically motivated crime may in part be accounted for by
recent conflict perspectives (only class-based political moti-
vation for crime would be accounted for by the Marxist ver-
sion). Both Toby and Klockars analyze problems with the
assumptions radical criminology makes about class causation
of criminal behavior, but the important point is that radical
Akers / MARXIST CRIMINOLOGY: COMMENTS 531

theory basically does not offer an answer to the question why


people, even those in elite groups whose interests supposedly
are particularly served by the law, commit crimes.
Although his is not a Marxist theory, Turk knows and
understands Marxian theorizing and his paper is in part a
critique of some of the central and ancillary positions taken by
Marxists. He takes the classic Weberian stance of separating
studying values from making value judgements and the separa-
tion of the citizen's role from the scientist's role. Contrary to the
Marxist argument that objective science is not possible in
capitalist society, this is a necessary and vital distinction to
make in judging the merits of assertions about society. Follow-
ing from this, then, Turk agrees that the pursuit of a non-
partisan conflict analysis is possible. I agree with Turk that
conflict analysis is not necessarily synonymous with "partisan
ideological treatises"; that a value-free theory of crime is
difficult to achieve does not mean that the "ideal of objectively
valid and reliable knowledge" is impossible to attain. How-
ever, Turk's view is that much Marxist theoretical analysis is
in fact partisan political polemics asserting the evil of the
capitalist system and the virtues of the socialist system. But
much of it is not, and a nonpartisan, objective Marxist theory
is possible just as other ideology-free criminological theory
is possible.
Turk recognizes that whatever overlap there is between a
theory explaining what is and judgements of what ought to be
(and proposals to bring it about), the two are clearly different
and separable enterprises. Turk recognizes that a Marxian
theory of the structure of society and the enactment/enforce-
ment of law can be contructed and tested for validity regard-
less of one's belief about the value of the Marxist vision of
what society should be. It is quite possible to be persuaded by
the facts that there is indeed an elite capitalist ruling class con-
trolling the entire criminal justice system to its own ends, and
still be vehemently opposed to the establishment of a dictator-
ship of the proletariat. By failing to make this distinction be-
532 CRIMINOLOGY / FEBRUARY 1979

tween "is" and "ought" Quinney falls into the fallacy of assum-
ing the truth of assertions on the basis of ideological purity. If
the theory suits the development of a socialist society, it is true;
if it does not, it is false. Quinney's paper fits Klockar's descrip-
tion that "for the Marxist theorist, the object of theory is to
change history," not to be tested against history.
As most conflict theorists do, Turk tends to dismiss as irrele-
vant the now voluminous body of research findings (some of
which is cited in the Klockars paper) that there is considerable
normative consensus in society cutting across class, sex, race,
and age divisions on the undesirability and seriousness of cer-
tain criminal acts. The existence of such widespread consensus
is not a trivial finding; it runs directly counter to assertions
made by all varieties of conflict theorists. It cannot be dis-
missed and must be accepted as either disconfirming conflict
assertions or affirming some modified conflict model which
recognizes consensus on some issues.
The whole tenor of Quinney's paper is that of a mystical,
true-believing apostle. Capitalism is evil. Socialism is good.
The ideal society is a communist society. If criminologists
would just "get into" the Marxist religion, live the dialectic,
and work for a better society by participating in the class
struggle, we not only would achieve the good society but we
would no longer doubt or speculate. We know we are right and
can rest in the "relative certainty of our cause." Because of this
faith in the righteousness of his cause, Quinney does not ask
questions or search for answers; rather, he starts with conclu-
sions assumed to be true and plays out the implications of
these.

. . all social life, including everything associated with crime,


must be understood in terms of the objective economic condi-
tions of production and the subjective struggle between classes
that is related to these conditions.

If Quinney assumes at the outset that all social life must be


understood in terms of economic conditions and class struggle,
Akers / MARXIST CRIMINOLOGY: COMMENTS 533

then he can reach no other conclusion than he does in later


statements that it is the economic class conditions of capital-
ist society that determines the societal reaction to crime and
the criminologist's role in that reaction.
Quinney makes assertions about the impact of capitalism
the truth of which cannot be assessed without comparisons
with historical and contemporary noncapitalist systems. Since
he writes only about one type of society, there is no variation
in either the independent variable (capitalism) or the depend-
ent variables (criminal justice and criminology in capitalist
society). Therefore, there is no documentation for such asser-
tions as

The study of crime-criminology-is associated with the


capitalist mode of production. The practice of criminology-
especially criminaljustice work-is likewise part of the capital-
ist structure. Moreover, criminology is a culturalproduction.

Taken literally, this statement means that Quinney is propos-


ing that there is no criminology studied or practiced in socialist
societies. Perhaps in some future utopian socialist society there
will be no crime, criminal justice or criminologists, but in the
real world, criminology is not a product only of capitalist
systems. Criminology of a sort is a "cultural product" of late
communism in the Soviet Union and eastern European socie-
ties, and certainly each of these societies has an official system
for the detection, control, and punishment of deviance. But the
role of the criminologist and the criminaljustice system in these
societies better fits the description of support of the ruling elite
which Quinney gives for "capitalistic" America:

[Criminology has as its] primary purpose the protection of


the existing social and economic order. Criminology has been,
and continues in large measure to be, a body of thought and
practice that seeks to control anything that threatens the cap-
italist system of production and its social relations.
534 CRIMINOLOGY / FEBRUARY 1979

Although Quinney presents this as a description of crimin-


ology in American society, the description would be closer to
the truth if we simply substituted the words "communist party
and state" for the words "capitalist system of production" in
this quotation and shifted the context to the Soviet Union.
Quinney refers to the fact that a "large portion of criminol-
ogical workers ... are employed by the state" as some evidence
that we do support a repressive system and are involved in legi-
timizing the capitalist system. The fact that someone is em-
ployed by some government as a means of livelihood or to pur-
sue his profession means he "supports" that government in
everything it does only in the most trivial and tautological
sense. But insofar as Quinney treats it as a significant indica-
tion of the level of support for a system, then there is greater
support for repression in communist societies since allworkers
are employed by the state; not by the masses, not by the pro-
letariat, but by the state which not only controls predatory
crime but suppresses dissent and civil rights.
Quinney is also wrong that the "objective task of the crimin-
ologist is to transmit bourgeois ideology to the working class as
a whole." According to Quinney this is a key objective task of
the universities, criminal justice research agencies, and schools
of criminal justice. But if so, we have been doing a very poor
job of it, and the capitalists should have gotten rid of us long
ago. In fact, the universities and colleges in all the social
sciences are among the major proponents and disseminators of
leftist ideology in both American and European societies.
Compared to other sectors of society Marxist ideology and
radical thought (if not practice) is rampant on university
campuses. In fact, although still adhered to by only a minority,
there has been a "boom" in Marxist-oriented philosophy and
analysis in criminology, sociology, political science, and
economics in the past decade. Indeed, it seems to be the only
"ism" that can be safely preached in classrooms or argued
among colleagues. While few may agree with it, Marxism is
seen as a legitimate and highly relevant stance to take. By con-
Akers / MARXIST CRIMINOLOGY: COMMENTS 535

trast anyone seriously presenting (as Klockars says) Nazism,


fascism, or any variety of religion as a stance from which to
criticize society is ignored or ridiculed. By contrast there is
one orthodoxy-Marxist-Leninism-which must be taught in
the Soviet Union and Eastern European institutes and univer-
sities. As Toby points out, the sort of system-attacking deni-
gration of the work of leading criminologists which Taylor,
Walton, and Young make could not have been published in
those societies.
Quinney's belief that criminologists in fact support the
interests of the capitalist elite may be an instance of what
Klockars is referring to in his analysis of the use of objective
and subjective interests in Marxist theory. It is also based on
Quinney's equating any social control in the United States with
repression. He calls police "repressive workers" because they
"engage in the actual or threatened use of physical force and
legal punishment." Thus, any maintenance of domestic order,
whether it be in the interest of protecting capitalists or in the
interest of protecting citizens from criminal offenders is still
"repression." By this formula, then, Quinney's conclusion that
anything criminologists do supports a repressive system be-
comes true by definition. Are we to believe from this that in the
idyllic socialist society, which Quinney says we should work
for, there will be no police, no deviance, no maintenance of
order, no law enforcement, no crime? Certainly if we canjudge
from existing socialist states there not only will be crime and its
control (and by Quinney's own definition, repression) but, as
Toby points out in his paper, much behavior that is currently
considered permissible in western democracies and not con-
trolled by police or law enforcement (e.g., nonviolent dissent)
will become defined as criminal and repressed through the
criminal justice system. Klockars points to the Cuban anti-
loafing laws. We might add examples of the crime punishable
by death under the communist Cambodian regime of failing to
work or to meet one's rice quota, or simply having been em-
ployed by the prior regime, or the host of criminal acts such
536 CRIMINOLOGY / FEBRUARY 1979

as "anti-socialist tendencies" or simply opposition to the


government in the Soviet Union which lawmakers here have
not and would not make illegal. Quinney offers us nothing to
assure us such would not be the case in the future.
As a criminologist I refuse to accept Quinney's description
of what I and my colleagues is this country are about. We have
not been willing or unwilling supporters of the "capitalist
system of production." Does this mean that I and other crim-
inologists do not support the current American system? Of
course not, because in varying degrees most of us basically
support the system although we spend an inordinate amount of
time criticizing and attempting to improve it. But to the extent
that criminologists work in behalf of the system, Quinney mis-
understands the basis or explanation for that support. He
attributes it to a conscious or unknowing support of or man-
ipulation by the capitalistic system and its ruling elite. We are
the unproductive laborers turning out cultural productions for
the capitalists. I would argue that American criminologists,
both applied and theoretical, by and large identify with and
support a democratic society and the values of human rights
and freedom which such a society represents. It is on that
basis that most of us do not join the class struggle for socialism.
We care very little for and in fact are very suspicious of elites,
especially corporate capitalist elites. To the extent that capital-
istic modes of production support or are consequences of
democratic society, then they too are supported and probably
should be. But there is nothing in current criminological
theory, research, or practice which points to support for some
repressive economic system-rather the support is for a demo-
cratic governmental-legal, system which is believed to reflect
the will of the people. Attempts made to understand and con-
trol crime, then, are not in behalf of some mystical and ill-
understood capitalistic system, but in the name of protecting
the people and the concrete system of law to the extent it is
protective, not suppressive, of rights.
Akers / MARXIST CRIMINOLOGY: COMMENTS 537

This support is not based on some naive high school civics-


book vision of a perfect America. The system does not have to
be demystified for us. But I sometimes get the impression that
Quinney and I are not living in the same society. I believe he
does, as Toby says, sometimes picture American society as if it
were South Africa or Nazi Germany. Maybe communism is
preferable to these societies; it is not preferable to American
democracy. It is in the self-interest (both objective and sub-
jective) of a criminology that wants freedom to exist and
pursue knowledge to support a system which allows that free-
dom. That freedom is more clearly assured in democratic than
in communist societies.
Nevertheless, Quinney calls us to develop a Marxist-social-
ist criminology which he pictures as a liberating "art" form
which would transform us, show us truth, liberate us, and
allow us to transcend and transform reality in a way which
"positivistic-scientific" modes of thinking cannot. He would
have us do more than liberate our thinking. He wants us to
make personal and social change, get involved in the class
struggle, and "reject capitalistic order and to struggle for a
socialist society." The question is, even if we were wholly dis-
satisfied with present society, why should we become involved
in fighting for and building a socialist society? Why should we
believe that such effort would produce a better world than we
now have? Moreover, as Klockars points out, how high a cost
must we pay for such a society? Quinney answers none of these
questions. If the extant communist countries of Asia, Eastern
Europe, Africa, and Latin America can be taken as test cases,
then building a socialist society calls for wholesale slaughter
of those who resist the struggle and the construction eventually
of a system which oppresses even those who did work for the
change. All would be controlled from the top by a tiny elite
running the state, the government, the economy, the legal
system, and everything and everybody in the society. Living the
dialectic and building a Marxist society, in short, seems a sure-
538 CRIMINOLOGY / FEBRUARY 1979

fire formula for contructing a system with all the worst features
which Quinney see in extant "capitalist" society.
Toby need not go back as far as he does to find the old senti-
mentality contained in the "new" criminology. The underdog
ideology of labelling theory has been taken on by some radical
criminologists even while being critical of labelling theory. But
I do not agree with Toby that emphasizing crime in high places
and excusing or rationalizing the crimes of lower class mem-
bers is the keystone of the "new" criminology. A much more
central assertion in Quinney's paper is that the higher levels,
indeed a single elite group, controls the lower levels of societies
and that crime and injustice are woven into the very fabric of
capitalist society. Therefore, radical criminology is not so
much the old sentimentality as it is the old structural-function-
alism. It is the most recent embodiment of the old sociological
adage that if something is wrong it is the system that needs to
be changed. The new criminology's version of this is the
capitalist system which needs structural overhaul. The "capi-
talist system" is to Marxist theory what "the unconscious" is
to Freudian theory, and what "structure" is to sociological
theory.
Toby rightly notes that there is little evidence in more recent
studies to support the notion that there is class discrimination
in the criminal justice system. This is not only contrary to
"new" criminology. The preponderance of research showing
little discrimination by social characteristics and the great
importance of legalistic variables in criminaljustice processing
has not been satisfactorily explained by any variety of new
criminology- Marxist, conflict, or labelling. However, we
should not forget that these findings also go against much of
what was taught in the "old" criminology, and indeed even
much of popular belief.
Klockars' point about objective and subjective interest is not
enhanced by his review of the changing perspective of some
leading Marxist theorists. Most recent radical or Marxist
theories have developed out of the pluralistic conflict perspec-
Akers / MARXIST CRIMINOLOGY: COMMENTS 539

tive. Some, such as Quinney, have deliberately and self-con-


sciously reputed their earlier stance. In giving up pluralistic
conflict theory for Marxist theory, radical criminologists have
moved toward a two-class model of society. Nevertheless, not
all have moved entirely to that position and this is not an illogi-
cal direction to take. Moreover, I am not sure what is proven
by detailing the change or by showing that Chambliss, who has
moved less in that direction, changed some sentences in his
vagrancy article in its latest reprint. Certainly change is
allowable, and I don't believe that Chambliss made the changes
to correspond with his latest stance to mislead the reader. More
to the point, this says nothing about the validity or value of the
new stance. The question is, did the change take place because
of new evidence or lack of empirical validity of the old per-
spective? In this light Klockars can be seen to misread Turk.
Turk's is not an attempt to "rescue some portion of the radical
perspective before its total bankruptcy is declared." Rather he
is maintaining fidelity to conflict theory as a theory capable of
and intended for testing free of its ideological freight. Other
conflict theorists may have in greater or lesser degree pretty
much given up this attempt. Turk has not, but he has no inter-
est in salvaging a radical ideological perspective.
I am not sure that radical criminologists are united in their
view of class as "bad," but even if they are neither this feature
nor the use of class as an explanation of crime is unique to
Marxist criminology as Klockars seems to believe. For in-
stance, in his paper presented here, Toby argues that there is
good theoretical reason to expect that lower-class persons
would commit more crimes than middle- or upper-class per-
sons. Does this make Toby a radical criminologist? It does not,
and in fact Toby argues that his position is contrary to radical
criminology.
As my remarks on Quinney's paper should make clear, I find
myself in basic agreement with Klockars' critique of Marxist
criminology in this country. I believe he overstates the case,
however, for not all of Marxist criminology is as wedded to the
540 CRIMINOLOGY / FEBRUARY 1979

class dogma or trying to escape its own history as Klockars


charges. Also, he needs to qualify his characterizations in
more places than he does and to spend more time pointing to
some of the recognized differences between the major figures.
I make no claim to being a scholar of Marxist writings and am
unable to evaluate properly all that Klockars contends. How-
ever, I believe Klockars is correct in the essential and major
points he makes about Marxist criminology. Indeed, I think it
is a devastating critique which will be widely cited in the future
and which Marxist criminologists will find difficult to answer.

CLOSE COMPARISONS OF THE THIRD KIND:


CONCLUDING REMARKS
"We must separate Marx the social theorist from Marx the
coffee-house conspirator." This is the sentence which my pro-
fessor was fond of repeating when leading up to a discussion of
Marxist thought in a course on theory which I took as an aspir-
ing young sociologist in graduate school (yes, Virginia, we
studied Marx way back then). It is a phrase I have not for-
gotten and of which I remind myself whenever Marxist doc-
trine is considered. It is a reminder that Marx engaged in writ-
ing revolutionary tracts, developing an ideological basis for
urging workers to throw off their chains of oppression from
nineteenth-century capitalists, as well as astute observation and
analysis of his society. I think some American Marxists 9hould
be reminded of this phrase because they have confused the
dogma and ideology of Marx the coffee-house conspirator
with the social theory of Marx the theorist. While the two
enterprises may be related and in some ways are mutually sup-
portive, as I note at the beginning of this paper, they are
distinct. Marxist ideology cannot be judged as theory, but
must be compared to rival social-political ideologies (this is
exactly the point which both Turk and Klockars make).
Akers / MARXIST CRIMINOLOGY: COMMENTS 541

While certain forms of socialism and social welfarism are


quite compatible with democratic political forms, Marxist
communism, which espouses a dictatorship of the proletariat
and has invariably been a dictatorship in practice, is not com-
patible with democracy. Capitalism as an economic system
may be tied to democratic political forms (and when it is, its
worst features are moderated) or to totalitarian forms. The
proper comparison therefore is not, as Quinney would have it,
between communism and capitalism, but between communism
and democracy.
There are at least three ways in which competing ideologies
or philosophies such as these may be compared. First, one can
judge the relative merits of the utopias or ideal systems implied
or envisioned by the two philosophies. This is almost never
done, and I do not want to do it here. I would simply say that
I much prefer the utopia envisioned by democracy of political
and legal equality, freedom for all, tolerance of diversity,
economic equity, constitutional rights, government by the
governed, protection of minority and individual civil rights,
and so on. Democratic ideology promises a better world than
the utopia envisioned by communism with its central vision of
a classless society and totally egalitarian distribution of re-
sources ruled by "democratic centralism" with no particular
vision of individual rights and freedom.
The second way in which the two can be compared is to
juxtapose the ideal utopia of one ideology with the historical
reality of the other ideology put into practice. The historical
reality will always and necessarily suffer (it will also suffer in
comparison to its own ideals, since there is always a discrep-
ancy between the real and ideal). As Toby says, there is im-
perfect justice in an imperfect world. Compared with an ideal
socialist future, the present reality of American society (in-
cluding the gap between democratic ideals and practice) obvi-
ously will appear to be unjust and repressive; but this is also
obviously a naive and unenlightening sort of comparison to
make.
542 CRIMINOLOGY / FEBRUARY 1979

The most revealing comparison is of a third kind-compar-


ing one real system with another real system. Quinney's insist-
ence that criminologists and others struggle to bring about a
socialist future is based on his making the second kind of com-
parison while ignoring the third kind. Compared to a socialist
ideal system, the real American system looks unjust, repres-
sive, and controlled by a tiny capitalist elite. Compared to the
Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, North Korea, East Germany,
Cambodia, and other real societies, it looks pretty good.
In neither communist nor democratic societies is the ideal
achieved, but when comparisons of the third kind are made,
the real and historic societies based on Marxist doctrine invari-
ably look worse than the real and historic societies based on
democratic ideals. This is true on whatever ground the compar-
ison is made: quality of life of the people, freedom and human
rights, political control by the people, economic well being,
economic disparity and inequity, imperialism and control of
puppet states, encroachment on other nation's sovereignty, re-
pression of liberation movements around the world, and so on.
This is the point of the telling comparisons which Klockars
makes of the American system with Cuba, China, the Soviet
Union and other communist states. This comparison need not
be complex, profound, or esoteric, or made by experts. It need
not involve mystification and glorification of our system. Any
informed citizen can make it, and it has been made in the popu-
lar press.
Therefore, I am puzzled why Quinney does not make this
kind of comparison. Some Marxists dismiss such comparison
as irrelevant or naive, and Klockars claims such a compari-
son is not made by Marxists because it would discredit the
promise of a nonrepressive, crime-free society and bring up
the issue of the costs of achieving it. The fact is that some
radical criminologists, including Chambliss, have made
comparative reference to Marxist societies and to the fact that
some things which are defined as crime there would not be
crime here. But Quinney does not compare existing marxist
Akers / MARXIST CRIMINOLOGY: COMMENTS 543

societies to gauge how crime-free and nonrepressive some


future socialist society might be. If Quinney were to make this
kind of comparison, I believe he would have to conclude that
neither the criminal justice system nor the criminologists in
communist societies represent a future for which it is worth
struggling. It would mean transforming an imperfect but still
basically free, open, democratic society into an even more
imperfect, closed, repressive, and totalitarian society. Quin-
ney's faith is misplaced. As a blueprint for the good society, the
Marxist ideal to which he holds has not proven to be reliable.
Socialist societies have been unable to deliver on the promise
of classlessness and economic equality. Instead, they have been
characterized by self-serving, privileged party elites and ruling
cabals or dictatorships which very closely resemble the tight-
knit, self-perpetuating ruling class controlling the criminal
justice system and using criminology to its own end which
Quinney says is true for "capitalist" society.
I must state as forcefully as I am able that nothing I have
written here should be taken to imply, even indirectly, that
Quinney (or any of the criminologists presented or discussed in
the other papers) supports what has happened in communist
countries. I know they are strongly ideologically and person-
ally opposed to oppression wherever it is found. My opening
remarks make it very clear that nothing I say is ad hominem.
My point is simply that Quinney is wrong about the support for
a repressive system by criminologists and the criminal justice
system in this country, and wrong about the promise which
socialism holds for doing away with repression. He is inviting
us to join the a struggle which would most likely achieve what
he so strongly abhors. Marx the social theorist left an abun-
dant intellectual heritage; Marx the coffee-house revolution-
ary left a legacy of human suffering. We should welcome the
first Marx and totally reject the second.

Ronald L. Akers is President of the American Society of Criminology and


Chairman-elect of the Criminology Section of the American Sociological
544 CRIMINOLOGY / FEBRUARY 1979

Association. He is currently Chairman of the Department of Sociology at the


University of Iowa. His published books include Deviant Behavior: A Social
Learning Approach, and Law and Control in Society (with Richard Hawkins).
He is author and coauthor of articles appearingin Criminology, Journal of
Criminal Law and Criminology, Social Problems, American Sociological
Review, Social Forces, Law and Society Review, and otherjournals. His cur-
rent research activity is focused on adolescent drug and drinking behavior,
knowledge and opinion of the law. and evaluation of juvenile diversion and
Youth care facilities.