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Toward a Marxian Theory of Deviance

Author(s): Steven Spitzer


Source: Social Problems, Vol. 22, No. 5 (Jun., 1975), pp. 638-651
Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the Society for the Study of Social Problems
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TOWARD A MARXIANTHEORY OF DEVIANCE*


STEVEN SPITZER
University
of Pennsylvania
This paper considersthe prospectsfor the developmentof a Marxian interpretation of deviance and control.The weaknessesof conventionalperspectivesare identifiedand an approach is suggestedwhich applies the insightsof Marxian theoryto
an investigationof devianceproductionin modernsociety.This process is explored
with special attentionto the capitalistmode of production,the systemof class control in capitalistsocieties,thegenesisand maintenanceof "problempopulations,"the
channelingof these populationsinto deviant statuses,and the distinctivecharacter
of deviantgroups. The emergenceof monopolyand state capitalismis examinedin
an attemptto understandthe dynamicsof structuralchange,devianceproductionand
social control.The overproductionof deviance in advanced capitalistsocieties and
attemptsat the "solution" of this problem are also discussed.

Within the last decade American turbedbyitspreoccupation


with"draformsof social
sociologistshave becomeincreasinglymaticand predatory"
in theirapproachto deviance behavior(Liazos, 1972). Only in rereflective
and social problems.They have come centyearshave sociologists
startedto
to recognize
thatinterpretations
of de- questionthe consequences
of singling
viance are oftenideologicalin their out "nuts," "sluts," "perverts,"
and implications,
and that "lames," "crooks," "junkies," and
assumptions
Instead
guiltyof "juicers"forspecialattention.
sociologistsare frequently
conventional
wisdomabout
"providingthe factswhichmake op- of adopting
and the theory who and whaiis deviant,investigators
pressionmoreefficient
whichmakesit legitimate
to a larger have graduallymade the definitional
constituency"
(Becker and Horowitz, problem centralto the sociological
1972:48). To combat this tendency enterprise.
Theyhave begunto appreofdeviancehaveinvested
more ciatetheconsequences
of studying
students
the
and moreenergyin the searchfor a powerless(ratherthanthe powerful)
This searchhas focused -both in termsof therelationship
criticaltheory.
beon threemajorproblems:(1) thedefi- tweenknowledgeof and controlover
nitionof deviance,(2) theetiology
of a group,andthesupportforthe"hierand
conthe
of
deviance, (3)
archyof credibility"
etiology
(Becker,1967)
thatsucha focusprovides.Sociologists
trol.
havediscovered
thesignificance
of the
AND
THEORIES
TRADITIONAL
definitional
processin theirown, as
THEIRPROBLEMS
well as society'sresponseto deviance,
has raised doubts
Traditionaltheoriesapproachedthe and this discovery
about
the
and
direction
with
little
of
deviance
purposeof the
explanation
field.
the
to
about
phenomenon
equivocation
Evenwhenthedefinitional
issuecan
be explained.Priorto the 1960s the
with a
critics
are
faced
resolved
be
was
deviance
of
matter
theory
subject
takenfor grantedand few were dis- secondand equallytroublesome
problem. Traditionaltheoriesof deviance
* Revised versionof a paper presentedat are
non-structural
and ahisessentially
the AmericanSociological Associationmeetin theirmodeof analysis.
torical
By reings, August, 1975. I would like to thank
which
to
factors
stricting
investigation
for
Cecile Sue Coren and Andrew T. Scull
are manipulablewithinexistingstructheircriticismsand suggestions.

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Toward a Marxian Theory

639

tural arrangementsthese theories em- dent sources of deviance and control,


brace a "correctional perspective") but to understandthe reciprocalrela(Matza, 1969) and divert attention tionshipbetweenthe two.
from the impact of the political econIn elevatingcontrolto thepositionof
omy as a whole. From this point of an independentvariable a more critical
view deviance is in but not of our con- orientationhas evolved. Yet thisorientemporarysocial order. Theories that tationhas createda numberof problems
locate the sourceof deviance in factors of its own. If deviance is simply a
as diverse as personality structure, status, representingthe outcome of a
family systems,cultural transmission, seriesof controlprocedures,should our
social disorganizationand differential theory of deviance be reduced to a
theoryof control? In what sense, if
opportunityshare a common flawthey attempt to understand deviance any,is deviancean achievedratherthan
apartfromhistoricallyspecificformsof an ascribedstatus?How do we account
political and economic organization. for the historicaland structuralsources
Because traditional theories proceed of deviance apart from those shaping
withoutany sense of historicaldevelop- the developmentof formalcontrols?
ment, deviance is normallyviewed as
TOWARDA THEORY OF DEVIANCE
an episodic and transitory
phenomenon
PRODUCTION
of
ratherthan an outgrowth long-term
A criticaltheorymustbe able to acstructuralchange. Sensitivesociologists
have come to realize thatcriticaltheory count for both deviance and deviants.
must establish,ratherthan obscure,the It must be sensitive to the process
relationship between deviance, social throughwhich deviance is subjectively
constructedand deviantsare objectively
structureand social change.
A finalproblem in the search for a handled, as well as the structuralbases
criticaltheoryof devianceis the absence of the behavior and characteristics
of a coherenttheoryof control.More which come to official attention. It
than ever before criticshave come to should neitherbeg the explanationof
argue that deviance cannot be under- deviantbehaviorand characteristics
by
stood apart fromthe dynamicsof con- depicting the deviant as a helpless
trol. Earlier theoriesdevoted scant at- victimof oppression,nor fail to realize
tentionto the controlprocess precisely that his identificationas deviant, the
because control was interpretedas a dimensions of his threat, and the
natural response to behavior generally prioritiesof the controlsystemare part
assumed to be problematic. Since of a broader social conflict. While
theoriesof deviance viewed controlas acknowledgingthe fact that deviance
a desideratum,no theoryof controlwas is a statusimputedto groupswho share
required. But as sociologistsbegan to certain structuralcharacteristics(e.g.
question conventional images of de- powerlessness)we mustnot forgetthat
viance theyrevisedtheirimpressionsof thesegroups are definedby more than
social control. Rather than assuming these characteristicsalone.' We must
that societal reaction was necessarily not only ask why specificmembersof
defensive and benign, skeptics an1 For example,Turk (1969) definesdenounced that controls could actually
viance primarilyin termsof the social posicause deviance. The problem was no
tion and relative power of various social
longer simplyto explain the indepen- groups.

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640

SOCIAL PROBLEMS

of scienthe underclass
are selectedfor official how others(the emergence
tific
and
meritocratic
as
behave
but
also
ideologies)sancwhythey
processing,
and
stratification
intellectual
no
tioned
matter
do.
Deviant
statuses,
they
how
still
and
in
how coercively
are
some
differential
handling,
applied,
senseachievedand we mustunderstand others (the attractionof unskilled
this achievementin the contextof labor and populationconcentrations)
concernover the "threat"
conflict.
We needto heightened
political-economic
understandwhy capitalismproduces thatthesegroupswereassumedto repof activity
and typesof resent.In otherwords,the formand
bothpatterns
mustbe
people thatare definedand managed contentof deviancedefinition
to
as deviant.
assessedin termsof itsrelationship
In ordertoconstruct
a generaltheory bothstructural
and ideologicalchange.
A secondaspectof devianceproducof devianceand controlit is usefulto
of and changes
conceiveof a processof deviancepro- tionis thedevelopment
ductionwhichcan be understoodin in problembehaviorsand problem
relationshipto the developmentof populations.If we assumethatclass
in- societiesare based on fundamental
class society.Devianceproduction
volves all aspects of the process conflicts
betweengroups,and thatharwhich
strucis
achievedthroughthe domiare
mony
through
populations
as well as shaped, nanceof a specific
class,it makessense
turallygenerated,
channeled into, and manipulated to arguethatdeviantsare culledfrom
within social categoriesdefinedas groupswhocreatespecific
for
problems
dewho
rule.
This
includes
those
these
the
deviant.
Although
process
groups
of and changesin: (1) de- mayvictimize
or burdenthoseoutside
velopment
viantdefinitions,
(2) problempopula- of the dominantclass,theirproblematic qualityultimately
residesin their
tions,and (3) controlsystems.
deviancepro- challengeto thebasisand formof class
Most fundamentally,
of rule.Becauseproblempopulationsare
ductioninvolvesthe development
and not always "handled," theyprovide
and changesin deviantcategories
mustexamine candidatesfor, but are in no sense
images.A criticaltheory
where these images and definitionsequivalentto, officialdeviants.A soaboutthe phisticated
comefrom,whattheyreflect
mustinvesticriticaltheory
in specific gate wherethesegroupscome from,
of and priorities
structure
andhowtheyarerelated whytheirbehaviors
classsocieties,
and characteristics
to classconflict.
If we are to explain, are problematic,
and how they are
for example,how mentalretardationtransformed
in a developingpolitical
becomes deviance and the feeble- economy.We mustconsider,for inmindeddeviantwe need to examine stance,whyChineselaborersin 19th
the structural
economic century
Californiaand Chicanosin the
characteristics,
and politicaldimensions
of thesociety Southwestduringthe 1930s became
in whichthesedefinitions
and images theobjectof official
and why
concern,
In
of
the
the
case
American
soto
address
laws
evolved
emerged.
drug
must
how
to
understand
certain
we
came
that
these
ciety
"problems"
groups
correlatesof capitalistdevelopmentrepresent (Helmer and Vietorisz,
and nuclearization1973; Musto,1973).
(proletarianization
of the family) weakenedtraditional The changingcharacter
of problem
methodsof assimilating
thesegroups, populations
is relatedto deviancepro-

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Towarda MarxianTheory
duction in much the same way that
variations in material resourcesaffect
manufacturing.Changes in the quantityand qualityof raw materialsinfluence the scope and prioritiesof proof the
duction, but the characteristics
final product depend as much on the
methods of production as the source
material.These methods comprise the
thirdelementin devianceproduction-the developmentand operationof the
control system.The theorymust explain why a systemof controlemerges
under specificconditions and account
for its size, focusand workingassumpof the system
tions. The effectiveness
in confrontingproblem populations
and its internal structuremust be
understood in order to interpret
changes in the form and content of
control.Thus, in studyingthe production of the "mentallyill" we mustnot
only consider why deviance has been
"therapeutized,"but also how this developmentreflectsthe subletiesof class
control.Under capitalism,forexample,
formal control of the mad and the
birthof the asylum may be examined
as a responseto the growing demands
for order, responsibilityand restraint
(cf. Foucault, 1965).
THE

PRODUCTION
IN CAPITALIST

OF DEVIANCE
SOCIETY

The concept of deviance production


offersa startingpoint for the analysis
of both deviance and control.But for
such a constructto serve as a critical
tool it must be grounded in an historical and structuralinvestigationof
society.For Marx, the crucial unit of
analysisis the mode of productionthat
dominatesa given historicalperiod. If
we are to have a Marxian theoryof
deviance, therefore,deviance production mustbe understoodin relationship
to specific forms of socio-economic

641

In oursociety,
organization.
productive
is organizedcapitalistically
and
activity
it is ultimately
definedby "theprocess
thattransforms
on the one hand,the
and of prosocialmeansof subsistence
ductionintocapital,on theotherhand
the immediateproducersinto wage
labourers"(Marx,1967:714).
Thereare two features
of the capitalistmode of productionimportant
for purposesof thisdiscussion.First,
it formsthe
as a mode of production
of our
foundationor infrastructure
This
means
the
that
starting
society.
pointof ouranalysismustbe an understandingof theeconomicorganization
of capitalist
societiesand theimpactof
that organizationon all aspects of
social life. But thecapitalistmode of
productionis an importantstarting
point in anothersense. It contains
contradictions
whichreflect
theinternal
tendencies
of capitalism.
Thesecontradictionsare importantbecause they
of the
explainthe changingcharacter
and
nature
of its
the
system
capitalist
impacton social,politicaland intellecof a
tual activity.The formulation
Marxistperspectiveon deviancereof theprocess
quirestheinterpretation
of
throughwhich the contradictions
are expressed.In particular,
captialism
the theorymustillustrate
the relationship betweenspecificcontradictions,
theproblemsof capitalist
development
and theproduction
of a deviantclass.
ofsociety
The superstructure
emerges
theongoingdevelopfromand reflects
mentof economicforces(the infraIn classsocieties
thissuperstructure).
the
structure
preserves hegemonyof
the rulingclass througha systemof
class controls.These controls,which
in the family,
are institutionalized
associations,
media,
church,private
schoolsand thestate,providea mechanismfor copingwiththe contradic-

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642

SOCIAL PROBLEMS

tions and achieving the aims of capitalistdevelopment.


Among the most importantfunctions served by the superstructure
in
capitalistsocietiesis the regulationand
managementof problem populations.
Because devianceprocessingis onlyone
of the methods available for social
control,these groups supply raw material for deviance production,but are
by no means synonymouswith deviant
populations.Problem populationstend
to share a numberof social characteristics,but most importantamong these
is the factthattheirbehavior,personal
qualities and/or position threatenthe
social relationsof productionin capitalistsocieties.In otherwords,populations become generally eligible for
managementas deviantwhen theydisturb,hinder or call into question any
of the following:
1) capitalistmodes of appropriating
theproductof humanlabor (e.g.
when the poor "steal" fromthe
rich)
2) thesocial conditionsunderwhich
capitalistproductiontakes place
(e.g. thosewho refuseor are unable to performwage labor)
3) patternsof distributionand consumption in capitalist society
(e.g. those who use drugs for
escape and transcendencerather
than sociabilityand adjustment)
4) the process of socialization for
productive and non-productive
roles (e.g. youthwho refuse to
be schooled or those who deny
the validityof "familylife")2

5) the ideologywhich supportsthe


functioningof capitalist society
(e.g. proponents of alternative
formsof social organization)
Although problem populations are
definedin termsof the threatand costs
that theypresentto the social relations
of production in capitalist societies,
these populations are far from isomorphicwith a revolutionaryclass. It
is certainlytruethatsome membersof
the problem population, may under
specific circumstancespossess revolutionarypotential.But thispotentialcan
only be realized if the problematic
group is located in a positionof functional indispensability within the
capitalistsystem.Historically,capitalist
societieshave been quite successfulin
transformingthose who are problematic and indispensable (the protorevolutionaryclass) into groups who
are eitherproblematicand dispensable
(candidates for deviance processing),
or indispensable but not problematic
(supporters of the capitalist order).
On the other hand, simply because a
group is manageable does not mean
that it ceases to be a problem for the
capitalist class. Even though dispensable problem populationscannot overturn the capitalist system,they can
representa significantimpedimentto
its maintenanceand growth. It is in
this sense thattheybecome eligible for
managementas deviants.
Problem populations are created in
two ways-either directlythroughthe
expression of fundamentalcontradictions in the capitalistmode of production or indirectlythroughdisturbances
2 To the extentthata group (e.g. homo- in the
systemof class rule. An example
chal- of the first
sexuals) blatantlyand systematically
process is found in Marx's

lenges the validityof the bourgeois family


it is likely to become part of the problem
population.The familyis essentialto capi- socially necessarylabor force (cf. Franktalist society as a unit for consumption, ford and Snitow, 1972; Secombe, 1973;
socialization and the reproductionof the Zaretsky,1973).

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Toward a Marxian Theory

643

(Marx,
analysis of the "relative surplus- alwaysreadyforexploitation"
1967:632).
population."
On the otherhand, it is apparent
Writingon the "GeneralLaw of
in whatMarx
an excessive
increase
that
exMarx
Accumulation"
Capitalist
socialredundance called the "lowestsediment"of the
plainshow increased
of the relativesurplus-population,
in thedevelopment
is inherent
mightseriof
the
of
mode
ouslyimpair growth capital.The
production:
capitalist
social expensesand threatto social
With the extensionof the scale of procreatedby a large and ecoharmony
duction, and the mass of the labourers
set in motion, with the greater breadth nomicallystagnantsurplus-population
for
and fullness of all sources of wealth, could jeopardizethepreconditions
thereis also an extensionof the scale on accumulation
idethe
by undermining
which greaterattractionof labourersby
of equalityso essentialto the
ology
capital is accompanied by their greater
of
relationsin
repulsion ... The labouring population legitimation production
revethereforeproduces, along with the ac- bourgeoisdemocracies,
diverting
cumulationof capital producedby it, the nues away from capital investment
means by which itself is made relatively towardcontrol
and supportoperations,
superfluous,. . . and it does this to an and
a basis forpoliticalorproviding
always increasing extent (Marx, 1967:
of thedispossessed.3
To the
ganization
631).
extentthattherelativesurplus-populaIn itsmostlimitedsensetheproduc- tionconfronts
.thecapitalistclass as a
tion of a relativesurplus-populationthreatto thesocialrelations
of producof a classwhichis tionit reflects
involvesthecreation
an important
contradicBut insofaras tion in moderncapitalistsocieties:a
redundant.
economically
the conditionsof economicexistence surplus-population
is a necessary
prodthisprocess uctof and condition
socialexistence,
determine
fortheaccumulaof groups tionof wealthon a capitalist
basis,but
helpsexplaintheemergence
who become both threateningand it also createsa formof socialexpense
vulnerable
at thesametime.The mar- whichmustbe neutralized
orcontrolled
of thesepopulationsre- if production
status
relationsand conditions
ginal
of for increasedaccumulation
ducestheirstakein themaintenance
are to rethe systemwhile theirpowerlessnessmainunimpaired.
and dispensability
rendersthem inProblempopulationsare also genwhich
creasinglysusceptibleto the mecha- erated throughcontradictions
nismsof official
control.
ofclassrule.The
developin thesystem
The paradoxsurrounding
the pro- institutions
whichmakeup the superductionof therelativesurplus-popula-structure
of capitalistsocietyoriginate
tion is that this populationis both and are maintainedto guaranteethe
usefuland menacingto the accumula- interestsof the capitalistclass. Yet
tion of capital.Marx describeshow theseinstitutions
necessarily
reproduce,
the relativesurplus-population
"forms ratherthanresolve,the contradictions
a disposable industrialarmy, that of the capitalist
order.In a dialectical
as fashion,arrangements
whicharise in
belongsto capitalquiteas absolutely
ifthelatterhadbreditat itsowncost,"
3 O'Connor (1973) discusses this proband how this army,"creates,for the
lem in terms of the crisis faced by the
changingneeds of the self-expansioncapitaliststatein maintainingconditionsfor
of capital,a mass of humanmaterial profitableaccumulationand social harmony.

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644

SOCIAL PROBLEMS

betweenthesepopulations
orderto buttress
capitalismare trans- relationship
formedintotheiropposite-structuresand the controlsystem.This rate is
forthe cultivation
of internalthreats. likelyto be influenced
bythe:
and Intensity
An instructive
(1) Extensiveness
of
exampleof thisprocess
Devianceprocessing
is foundin the emergence
and trans- StateControls.
(as
formationof educationalinstitutionsopposedto othercontrolmeasures)is
in theUnitedStates.
more likelyto occur when problem
is monopolizedby the
of masseducation management
The introduction
in the UnitedStatescan be tracedto state. As state controlsare applied
of offitheproportion
the developingneeds of corporate moregenerally
will
deviants
increase.
cial
Cohen
capitalism(cf. Karier, 1973;
and Lazerson, 1972; Bowles and
(2) Size and Level of ThreatPreThe
Gintis, 1972; Spring, 1972). Com- sentedbytheProblemPopulation.
theprobpulsoryeducationprovideda meansof largerand morethreatening
the greaterthe likelitraining,
testingand sorting,and as- lem population,
well
as
this
as
hood
that
populationwill haveto
similatingwage-laborers,
devianceprocessfrom
be
controlled
certain
through
withholding
populations
was also ing ratherthanothermethods.As the
The system
thelabormarket.
exintendedto preservethe values of threatcreatedbythesepopulations
bourgeoissocietyand operateas an ceeds the capacitiesof informalretheirmanagement
formof police" (Spring, straints,
requiresa
"inexpensive
and
of
the
reaction
as
Gintis
However,
system
(1973) broadening
1973:31).
and coordicentralization
and Bowles (1973) have suggested, an increasing
of schooling nationof controlactivities.
theinternal
contradictions
can lead to effects
(3) Level of Organizationof the
oppositeof those
Forthepoor,earlyschooling Problem Population.When and if
intended.
can make explicitthe oppressivenessproblempopulationsare able to orgaand alienatingcharacterof capitalist nize and developlimitedamountsof
whilehighereducation
can political power, devianceprocessing
institutions,
as a
less effective
instillcriticalabilitieswhichlead stu- becomesincreasingly
dents to "bite the hand that feeds tool forsocialcontrol.The attribution
insti- of deviantstatusis mostlikelyto occur
them."In bothcaseseducational
tutionscreatetroublesome
impotent
populations when a group is relatively
(i.e. drop outs and studentradicals) and atomized.
and contribute
to the veryproblems (4) Effectiveness
of ControlStrucCivilSociety.
were
to
solve.
tures
they
designed
Organizedthrough
of the
how and why The greaterthe effectiveness
Afterunderstanding
the
civil
bothof
become
family,
(i.e.
society
generally
organs
specific
groups
it is neces- church,media, schools, sports) in
ersomein capitalist
society,
under solvingthe problemsof class control,
theconditions
saryto investigate
which these groups are transformedthe less the likelihoodthat deviance
intoproperobjectsfor social control. processing(a moreexplicitly
political
In otherwords,we mustask whatdis- process)will be employed.
tinguishesthe generallyproblematic (5) Availabilityand Effectiveness
fromthespecifically
deviant.The rate of Alternative
Types of OfficialProare con- cessing.In somecasesthestatewill be
at whichproblempopulations
certain
to incorporate
vertedinto deviantswill reflectthe able effectively

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Toward a Marxian Theory

645

segments of the problem population membersof the problempopulation.


into specially created "pro-social" Policiesevolve,not so muchto elimiroles. In the modernera, for example, nateor actively
suppressthesegroups,
conscriptionand public works projects but to deflecttheirthreataway from
whichare sacredto thecapital(Piven and Cloward, 1971) helped targets
neutralize the problems posed by istclass.Victimization
and
is permitted
troublesomepopulations without cre- evenencouraged,
as longas thevictims
of an expendableclass.
ating new or expanding old deviant are members
Two moreor lessdiscrete
categories.
groupings
(6) Availability and Effectiveness are established
throughtheoperations
control.These groupsare a
of Parallel ControlStructures.In many of official
instancesthe statecan transferits costs productof different
operating
assumpof deviance productionby supporting tions and administrative
orientations
or at least toleratingthe activitiesof towardthedeviantpopulation.
On the
independent control networks which one hand,thereis social junk which,
operate in its interests.For example, fromthe pointof view of the domiwhen the stateis denied or is reluctant nant class, is a costlyyet relatively
to assert a monopoly over the use of harmlessburdento society.The disof social junk residesin
force it is frequentlywilling to en- creditability
or refusalof this
courage vigilante organizations and the failure,inability
in the rolessupprivate police in the suppression of groupto participate
of
the
Socialjunk
portive capitalist
society.
problem populations. Similarly,
state is often benefitedby the policies is mostlikelyto cometo official
attenand practicesof organizedcrime,inso- tion when informalresourceshave
far as these activitieshelp pacify,con- beenexhausted
or whenthemagnitude
tain and enforce order among poten- of the problembecomessignificant
tially disruptive groups (Schelling, enoughto createa basis for "public
concern."Since the threatpresented
1967).
(7) Utilityof ProblemPopulations. by socialjunkis passive,growingout
to competeand itswithWhile problempopulationsare defined of itsinability
socialorder,
in terms of their threatand costs to drawalfromtheprevailing
controls
are
of
relations
usuallydesignedto regucapitalist
production,they
are not threateningin every respect. late and containratherthaneliminate
They can be supportiveeconomically and suppressthe problem.Clear-cut
(as partof a surpluslabor pool or dual examplesof social junk in modern
labor market), politically(as evidence capitalistsocietiesmightincludethe
of the need for stateintervention)and officiallyadministered
aged, handiill
for
and
rising capped, mentally
ideologically (as scapegoats
mentally
discontent). In other words, under retarded.
In contrast
certain conditions capitalist societies
to socialjunk,thereis a
derive benefits from maintaining a category
thatcan be roughlydescribed
number of visible and uncontrolled as social dynamite.The essential
'troublemakers" in their midst. Such qualityof deviancemanagedas social
is itspotential
to call
actively
populations are distinguishedby the dynamite
fact that while they remain generally intoquestionestablished
relationships,
and
bothersome,the costs that they inflict especiallyrelationsof production
are mostimmediatelyabsorbedby other domination.
sotherefore,
Generally,

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646

SOCIAL PROBLEMS

manent within the capitalistmode of


production.One of the mostimportant
processes identifiedby Marx was the
tendencyfor the organic composition
of capitalto rise.Simplystated,capitalism requires increasedproductivityto
survive, and increased productivityis
only made possible by raisingthe ratio
of machines (dead labor) to men
(living labor). This tendencyis selfsince, "the furthermachine
reinforcing
production advances, the higher becomes the organiccompositionof capital needed for an entrepreneurto
secure the average profit." (Mandel,
1968:163). This phenomenonhelps us
explain the courseof capitalistdevelopmentover the last centuryand the rise
of monopoly capital (Baran and
Sweezy, 1966).
For the purposes of this analysis
thereare at least two importantconsequences of this process. First, the
growth of constantcapital (machines
and raw material) in the production
process leads to an expansion in the
overall size of the relative surpluspopulation. The reasons for this are
obvious.The increasingly
technological
characterof productionremovesmore
and more laborers from productive
activityfor longer periods of time.
Thus, modern capitalistsocietieshave
been required progressivelyto reduce
systems.
the number of productiveyears in a
MONOPOLY CAPITAL AND DEVIANCE
worker'slife, definingboth youngand
PRODUCTION
old as economicallysuperfluous.Espeas a systemcially affectedare the unskilled who
Marxviewedcapitalism
itself.He ex- become more and more expendable as

cial dynamitetends to be more youthful, alienated and politically volatile


than social junk. The controlof social
dynamite is usually premised on an
assumptionthatthe problemis acute in
nature,requiringa rapid and focused
expenditureof controlresources.This
is in contrastto the handling of social
junk frequentlybased on a belief that
the problem is chronic and best controlled throughbroad reactive,rather
than intensiveand selective measures.
Correspondingly,social dynamite is
normallyprocessed throughthe legal
systemwithits capacityforactiveintervention,while social junk is frequently
(but not always)4 administeredby the
agencies and agents of the therapeutic
and welfarestate.
Many varieties of deviant populaor simultaneously
tionsare alternatively
dealt with as eithersocial junk and/or
social dynamite. The welfare poor,
homosexuals,alcoholics and "problem
children" are among the categories
reflectingthe equivocal nature of the
controlprocess and its dependence on
the political, economicand ideological
prioritiesof deviance production.The
changingnatureof theseprioritiesand
theirimplicationsforthe futuremaybe
best understoodby examiningsome of
the tendencies of modern capitalist

constantly
transforming
in terms
ofcer- capital expands.
plainedthesechanges
im- In addition to affectingthe general
andcontradictions
taintendencies

size of the relativesurplus-population,

4 It has been estimated,for instance,that the rise of the organic compositionof


1/3 of all arrestsin America are for the capital leads to an increasein the relaoffense of public drunkenness.Most of tive
stagnancyof that population. In
these apparentlyinvolve "sick" and destiMarx's
original analysis he distinrow
alcoholics"
and
tute "skid
(Morris
guished between formsof superfluous
Hawkins, 1969).

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Toward a Marxian Theory

647

populationthatwere floatingand stag- atic-both in termsof their size and


nant. The floatingpopulation consists theirinsensitivity
to economiccontrols,
of workers who are "sometimes re- and (2) the resourcesof the stateneed
pelled, sometimes attractedagain in to be applied in greaterproportionto
greater masses, the number of those protectcapitalist relations of producemployed increasingon the whole, al- tion and insure the accumulationof
though in a constantlydecreasingpro- capital.
portion to the scale of production"
STATE CAPITALISM AND NEW FORMS
(1967:641). From the point of view
OF CONTROL
of capitalistaccumulationthe floating
offers
the
economic
The
population
greatest
major problems faced by moflexibilityand the fewestproblemsof nopoly capitalism are surplus populasocial control because they are most tion and surplus production.Attempts
tiedto capitalbythe "natural to solve theseproblemshave led to the
effectively
laws of production." Unfortunately creation of the welfare/warfarestate
(for the capitalists at least), these (Baran and Sweezy, 1966; Marcuse,
groups come to comprise a smaller 1964; O'Connor, 1973; Gross, 1970).
and smaller proportionof the relative The warfarestate attacksthe problem
surplus-population. The increasing of overconsumption by providing
specialization of productive activity "wasteful"consumptionand protection
raisesthe cost of reproducinglabor and for the expansion of foreignmarkets.
heightens the demand for highly The welfare state helps absorb and
skilled and "internally controlled" deflectsocial expensesengenderedby a
forms of wage labor (Gorz, 1970).
redundant domestic population. AcThe process throughwhich unskilled cordingly,the economic development
workersare alternatively
absorbed and of capitalistsocietieshas come to dethe
from
force
is thereby pend increasingly
labor
on the supportof the
expelled
and
relative
the
state.
surplusimpaired,
The emergenceof statecapitalism
population comes to be made up of
of
increasingnumbersof personswho are and the growing interpenetration
more or less permanentlyredundant. thepoliticaland economicsphereshave
The boundaries between the "useful" had a numberof implicationsfor the
and the "useless" are more clearlyde- organization and administration of
lineated,while standardsforsocial dis- class rule. The mostimportanteffectof
qualificationare more liberallydefined. these trends is that control functions
With the growth of monopoly are increasinglytransferredfrom the
capital, therefore,the relativesurplus- organs of civil societyto the organs of
population begins to take on the char- political society (the state). As the
acter of a population which is more maintenance of social harmony beand more absolute. At the same time, comes more difficult
and the contradicthe market becomes a less reliable tions of civil societyintensify,
the state
meansof discipliningthesepopulations is forced to take a more direct and
and the "invisible hand" is more fre- extensive role in the managementof
quently replaced by the "visible fist." problempopulations.This is especially
The implicationsfor deviance produc- true to the extentthat the primarysotion are twofold: (1) problempopula- cializing institutions in capitalist
tions become graduallymore problem- societies (e.g. the family and the

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648

SOCIAL PROBLEMS

In addition to the advantagesof inchurch) can no longer be counted on


to produce obedient and "productive" tegrativecontrols,segregativemeasures
citizens.
are likely to fall into disfavor for a
state
intervention,espe- more immediatereason-they are relaGrowing
in the process of tively costly to formulateand apply.
intervention
cially
socialization, is likely to produce an Because of its fiscalproblemsthe state
emphasis on general-preventive(in- must search for means of economizing
tegrative),ratherthanselective-reactive controloperationswithoutjeopardizing
(segregative) controls.Insteadof wait- capitalist expansion. Segregativehanhas
ing for troublemakersto surface and dling,especiallyinstitutionalization,
managing them through segregative been useful in manipulatingand protechniques,the state is likely to focus viding a receptaclefor social junk and
more and more on generallyapplied social dynamite.Nonetheless, the per
incentives and assimilative controls. capita cost of this typeof management
This shiftis consistentwiththegrowth is typicallyquite high. Because of its
of statecapitalismbecause, on the one continuingrelianceon segregativeconhand, it provides mechanisms and trols the stateis faced with a growing
of deviance.
policies to nip disruptiveinfluences"in crisis-the overproduction
the bud," and, on the other,it paves The magnitudeof theproblemand the
the way toward a more rational ex- inherentweaknesses of available apploitationof human capital. Regarding proachestend to limitthe alternatives,
the latterpoint,it is clear thateffective but among thosewhichare likelyto be
social engineering depends more on favoredin the futureare:
social investment
and anticipatory
(1) Normalization. Perhaps the
planthan
coercive
and
societies
most
control,
ning
expedient response to the overmore
may
profitablymanage popula- productionof deviance is the normaltions by viewing them as human capi- ization of populations traditionally
tal, than as human waste. An invest- managed as deviant. Normalization
mentorientationhas long been popular occurs when deviance processing is
in state socialist societies (Rimlinger, reduced in scope without supplying
1961, 1966), and its value, not sur- specific alternatives,and certain segprisingly, has been increasinglyac- ments of the problem population are
knowledged by manycapitaliststates.5 "swept under the rug." To be successful this strategyrequires the creation
5 Despite the general tendenciesof state of invisibledeviantswho can be
easily
capitalism, its internal ideological contra- absorbed into
society and disappear
dictionsmay actuallyfrustratethe adoption
fromview.
of an investment
approach.For example,in
A currentexample of this approach
discussing social welfare policy Rimlinger
(1966:571) concludes that "in a country is found in the decarcerationmovelike the United States,which has a strong mentwhichhas reducedthe numberof
individualisticheritage, the idea is still
inmatesin prisons (BOP, 1972) and
alive that any kind of social protectionhas
adverse productivity
effects.A countrylike mental hospitals (NIMH, 1970) over
the Soviet Union, with a centrallyplanned the last fifteen
years.By curtailingcomeconomyand a collectivistideology,is likely mitments
and increasingturn-overrates
to make an earlier and more deliberateuse
the state is able to limit the scale and
of healthand welfareprogramsforpurposes
of institutionalof influencingproductivityand developing increase the efficiency
ization. If, however, direct release is
manpower."

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Towarda MarxianTheory
on
likelyto focustoo muchattention
theshortcomings
of thestatea number
of intermediatesolutions can be
adopted.These includesubsidiesfor
private control arrangements(e.g.
fosterhomes,old age homes) and decentralized
controlfacilities(e.g. community treatmentcenters, halfway
houses). In both cases, the fiscal
burdenof thestateis reducedwhilethe
are
dangersof completenormalization
avoided.
To a certainextent
(2) Conversion.

the expensesgeneratedby problemand


deviant populations can be offsetby
encouragingtheirdirectparticipationin
the process of control. Potential
troublemakers can be recruited as
policemen, social workers and attendants, while confirmeddeviants can
be "rehabilitated"by becoming counselors, psychiatricaides and parole
officers.In other words, if a large
numberof the controlledcan be converted into a first line of defense,
threatsto the systemof class rule can
be transformedinto resourcesfor its
support.6
(3) Containment. One means of

649

managed passivelyas long as they remain in theirplace.

have alStrategiesof containment

ways flourishedwhere social segregation exists,but theyhave become especially favored in modern capitalist
societies. One reason for this is their
compatibilitywith patterns of residential segregation,ghettoization,and
internalcolonialism (Blauner, 1969).

(4) Supportof Criminal


Enterprise.

Another way the overproductionof

deviancemaybe eased is by granting


to orgagreaterpowerand influence
crimnizedcrime.Althoughpredatory
inal enterprise
is assumedto standin
to thegoalsof thestateand
opposition
thecapitalist
valuable
class,itperforms
and uniquefunctions
in theserviceof
class rule (McIntosh, 1973). By creat-

structure,
ing a parallel opportunity
crime
a
means
of
organized
provides
supportforgroupswho mightotherwisebecomea burdenon thestate.The
activitiesof organizedcrimeare also
in the pacification
of probimportant
lempopulations.
crime
Organized
providesgoodsandservices
whicheasethe
hardshipsand deflectthe energiesof
In thisrolethe "crime
to threatening
responding
populations theunderclass.

withoutindividualizedmanipulationis
through a policy of containmentor
This policy incompartmentalization.
volves the geographic segregationof
large populationsand theuse of formal
and informalsanctionsto circumscribe
the challenges that they present. Instead of classifyingand handlingproblem populationsin termsof the specific
expenses thattheycreate,these groups
are loosely administeredas a homogeneous class who can be ignored or

6 In his analysis of the lumpenproletar-

iat Marx (1964) clearlyrecognizedhow the


underclass could be manipulated as a
"bribed tool of reactionaryintrigue."

industry"performsa cooling-outfunction and offersa controlresourcewhich


might otherwisenot exist. Moreover,

insofaras criminalenterprise
attempts

to reduce uncertaintyand risk in its

operations,it aids the state in the


of public order.This is
maintenance

particularlytrue to the extentthat the


rationalizationof criminal activityre-

costs(i.e. violence)
ducesthecollateral

associatedwithpredatorycrime (Schelling, 1967).


CONCLUSION

A Marxian theoryof deviance and


controlmust overcomethe weaknesses
of both conventional interpretations

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650

SOCIAL PROBLEMS

and narrowcriticalmodels. It must Bureau of Prisons


offera means of studyingdeviance 1972 National Prisoner Statistics.Prisoners in State and Federal Instituwhichfullyexploitsthecriticalpotentions for Adult Felons. WashingMore than
tial of Marxistscholarship.
ton, D.C.: Bureau of Prisons.
the analysisof devi- Cohen,David K., and MarvinLazerson
"demystifying"
mustsuggestdirec- 1972 "Education and the corporate
ance,sucha theory
order."
Revolution
Socialist
tionsand offerinsightswhichcan be
(March/April): 48-72.
of
utilizedin the directconstruction
Foucault, Michel
critical
thediscussion 1965 Madness and Civilization. New
theory.
Although
York: Random House.
has been informedby conceptsand
evidence drawn from a range of Frankford,Evelyn,and Ann Snitow
1972 "The trap of domesticity:notes
Marxiststudies,it has beenmoreof a
on the family." Socialist Revolusensitizingessay than a substantive
tion (July/August): 83-94.
of Gintis, Herbert
analysis.The further
development
thetheory
mustawaittheaccumulation 1973 "Alienationand power." Pp. 431465 in James H. Weaver (ed.),
of evidenceto refine
ourunderstanding
Modern Political Economy: Radiof therelationships
and tendencies
excal Versus Orthodox Approaches.
Boston: Allynand Bacon.
plored.When thisevidenceis develof Marxist Gorz, Andre
oped the contributions
1970 "Capitalist relations of produccan be moremeaningfully
thought
aption and the socially necessary
an
to
of
plied
understanding deviance,
labor force." Pp. 155-171 in
classconflict
and socialcontrol.
Arthur Lothstein (ed.), All We
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