Marxist and Feminist Approaches to Criminology


Criminology is a social science that considers crime a social phenomenon and has theories that interpret the emergence of crime and its punishment in different ways. It means that in criminology, there are theories based on a different understanding of the nature of crime and the causes of its occurrence – sociological and biological. Numerous hypotheses and theories have been put forward at different times, but science has not come to a single conclusion. However, some theories have become widespread due to a large amount of evidence. In modern criminology, the most recognized theories are gaining popularity with Feminist and Marxist ideas and perspectives.


Marxist Theory of Criminology

One of the well-established but still relevant theories in criminology is the Marxist theory, which tries to understand crime through the prism of Marxism. According to Marxist criminology, crime occurs at the height of capitalism’s struggle for resources, with marginalized people fighting for social, political, and economic equality. Marxist criminal theories do not necessarily have their origins in the sociologist Karl Marx. Rather, these methods were influenced by the ideas of neo-Marxist intellectuals. This is why a classless society is necessary for a crime-free society to exist. The laws are self-expression and do not serve the interests of certain groups (Margansky, 2020). Marxism focuses on the conflict between three socioeconomic groups called capitalists, the bourgeoisie, and the working class. Thus, criminals belong to a weak class, controlled by a strong and assigned to them a criminal status.

Each type of rejection was a deliberate provocation against social injustice. In his explanations, he explains the different types of crimes committed by capitalists to maintain their power over society. On the other hand, he describes the illegal behavior of the lower classes as a kind of survival. His ideas are characterized by an instrumental understanding of the state (an instrument of Marxism: systems of law and criminal justice are instruments of the capitalist class): crime as an instrument of self-expression and a weapon in the class struggle as a danger to capitalism (Prando, 2019). Marxist criminologists view the bourgeoisie as bearers of power and law as a manifestation of bourgeois ideology. The judiciary (lawyers, judges, and courts) and the police serve the interests of the bourgeoisie. These institutions are used to control society, prevent rebellions, and perpetuate false consciousness.

Feminist Theory of Criminology

Feminist crime theories examine the impact of gender differences on criminal behavior. Supporters of her case have worked to ensure that the true transcript of this statement is available online. Feminist criminology is well-established today. Since the 1990s, the role of women has received renewed attention (Friedrichs, 2018). Instead of discussing why women commit fewer crimes than men, the focus has shifted to women as victims of crime. Violence against women, anti-violence legislation, prostitution, and forced marriage are all in the interests of criminologists and criminologists. Feminist thinking is not a monotonous movement; it includes liberal feminists who emphasize equal opportunities for women, Marxist feminists who emphasize class relations and capitalism as a source of oppression of women, and socialist feminists who control men in society. However, these feminist views also highlight how the gender structure of society affects crime. It explains the unique experiences and perspectives of women as victims, criminals, and agents in the criminal justice system.

The emergence of ‘new criminologists,’ or radical, conflict-oriented ways of studying crime, inspired the rise of feminist criminology in the 1970s. Given the intellectual basis of conflict and ‘Marxist theory,’ these viewpoints see crime as a by-product of oppression, especially the oppression of women, ethnic minorities, and labor unions. In the 1960s and 1970s, as society became more politically and socially conscious, radical criminology and feminist criminology emerged. Existing ideologies and power structures have diverged, leading to the emergence of social movements such as opposition, civil rights movements, and women’s liberation movements (Linqi, 2019). Feminist criminologists were immediately unhappy with what they saw as an overly utopian and masculine approach to critical/radical criminology. The perpetrators are portrayed as courageous fighters fighting against the furious fury of radical feminists who also want to end personal violence and rape. Feminist criminology began to focus on how patriarchy helped female victims.

Similarities and Differences

Marxist and feminist ideologies call for revolution. According to radical feminists, men use gender discrimination as the main weapon of oppression against women. Discrimination against women serves as a conceptual framework for understanding the various forms of oppression. Feminists have argued that women are traditionally subject to informal control mechanisms that exist in the domestic sphere and that female delinquency is usually the result of a breakdown in informal social regulation, for example, when girls at a young age are placed in a situation of formal institutional care. When women commit crimes, they are more likely to be seen as mentally ill than vicious; in other words, female offenders are more likely than male offenders to be medicalized (Young, 1981). Later it was argued that the main theme of feminist criminology should be the relationship between gender, patriarchy, and crime, not the empirical details of the life of female criminals.

Marxist theories view crime as a by-product of oppression, especially the oppression of women, ethnic minorities, and trade unions. “Radical criminology and feminist criminology” emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, during a period of high political and social consciousness. It was a period of social and political unrest in the United States and most Western countries. Existing ideologies and power structures were destroyed and “social movements” such as opposition, civil rights, and women’s freedom arose (Linch, 2019). On the other hand, feminist criminologists are frustrated with their masculine approach that critical/radical criminology is too idealistic. The new criminology portrays criminals as brave warriors fighting the anger of radical feminists and trying to root out personal violence and rape. Feminist criminology has begun to pay attention to how patriarchy benefits women.

By revealing the influence of patriarchy, radical feminism supported the development of the feminist criminological community. The emergence of feminist epistemology has become a serious obstacle to cognitive concepts (Margansky, 2020). This view, put forward by Marx and Hegel, emphasizes the relationship between women and the world and immediately extends to the concept of the views of women (Prando, 2019) or the views of black feminists (Renzetti, 2018). Feminist epistemology is based on the experience of women. Both Marxist and feminist ideas emphasize the need for revolution.

According to radical feminists, gender discrimination is the main tool for oppressing women for men. Discrimination against women provides a framework for ideas to explore the many manifestations of oppression. The radical feminist demands fundamental changes in society. Feminists want to eliminate male dominance in economic and social situations by rejecting the dominant social structure and norms of men (Fajardo, 2021). Marxist philosophy views revolution as a way to free the working class from civil power. The social revolution is the result of the disenchantment of the working class with the current state of affairs and its willingness to create a production system that distributes income in an equitable and orderly manner.

The two theories differ in their ultimate goals. Feminist theory is interested in gender equality through the abolition of the patriarchal system, while Marxism rejects capitalism. Thanks to communism, workers become aware of their hardships, thereby setting in motion an ideal system of a classless society in which benefits are shared by everyone. Marxist theory holds that the change of power in society coincides with economic relations since individuals define themselves through social relations (De Giorgi, 2018). The transition of society from feudalism to capitalism creates a stratification within society, which will only increase and strengthen, according to the theory, crime. Although both theories call for revolution, Marxist theory is more concerned with an unequal society’s economic and educational system. Feminist theory is built primarily on gender differences (Lynch, 2019). It leads however to inequality and a surge in discontent, and the risk of increasing crime rates.

Theories Limitations

There is a tendency in Marxist criminology to assume an obvious economic motive for criminal activity. It is not true even in the case of a professional robber and certainly inadequate in terms of rape or vandalism. Here, an extension of the theory and further specification and contextualization is needed, as discussed earlier (Young, 1981). In terms of rape, for example, one might look for a Marxist approach that could analyze the notion of patriarchy and discuss the foundations of gender differences and male aggression, that is, from a feminist perspective.

At the same time, feminist views in criminology have developed in response to the silence and gaps in mainstream criminology. According to the criticism that feminists began to make, the theory is inadequate in five key ways (Marganski, 2020):

  • It focused almost exclusively on male criminals.
  • It is androcentric in his understanding and interpretation of crime.
  • Little attention is paid to victims of crime.
  • It ignores gender differences in criminal justice.
  • It ignores the dynamics of gender and power.

Although criminology is claimed to be an objective social science, the field (feminists accused) is deeply biased and complicit in maintaining male dominance.


Unlike traditional criminology, which emphasizes individual explanations for criminal behavior, Feminist and Marxist criminology emphasizes differences in power and institutions, especially those associated with class, as important decisions in crime, law, and justice. In addition, feminist ideas and views are based on dialogue and gender analysis, while Marxist ideas are based on economic and social interactions. Marxists are particularly interested in white-collar crime, corporate crime, and state crime, and how to manage these crimes, far less than petty crime and antisocial behavior.

On the other hand, feminist criminology continues to flourish. Both Marxism and feminism strive to create a society that promotes its vision of equality. The reason feminism and its methods can be seen as concrete policies to achieve this is that they seek to do so within the current prevailing political ideology and transform their more lucrative ideas. This is in stark contrast to the Marxist approach, which requires a complete overhaul of both political and economic structures to achieve its goal. While this radical approach to tackling inequality is well thought out ideologically, it will be extremely difficult to implement, as are all important deviations from the status quo. Thus, despite the different emphases in the theories, they have many similarities too.


De Giorgi, A., 2018. Punishment, Marxism, and Political Economy. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Fajardo, C., 2021. Mystified Alienation: A Discussion between Marx, Foucault and Federici. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society, 19(2), pp.287-300.

Friedrichs, D.O., 2018. Critical Criminology and the Critique of Domination, Inequality and Injustice. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Lynch, M.J., 2019. Class, Race, Gender and Criminology: Structured Choices and the Life Course. In Race, Gender, and Class in Criminology the Intersections (pp. 3-28). Routledge.

Marganski, A.J., 2020. Feminist theories in criminology and the application to cybercrimes. The Palgrave Handbook of International Cybercrime and Cyberdeviance, pp.623-651.

Prando, C., 2019. The margins of Criminology: challenges from a feminist epistemological perspective. International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 8(1), p.34.

Renzetti, C.M., 2018. Feminist perspectives. In Routledge handbook of critical criminology (pp. 74-82). Routledge.

Young, J. (1981). Thinking seriously about crime: Some models of criminology. London: Routledge and K. Paul Walton, 248-309.

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LawBirdie. "Marxist and Feminist Approaches to Criminology." July 18, 2023.