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Part 4 Crime and Revolution: Is Crime Progressive? 666 Part 4 Crime and Revolution: Is Crime Progressive? Part 4 Criminologists and lay persons alike have usually regarded crime as something harmful, something to be prevented, but qualifications to this general condemnation have often been made. Beccaria, an Italian economist and legal philosopher who wrote in the late eighteenth century, argued that matters of religious belief and private morality should not be subject to criminal prohibition. More recently, sociologists have argued that certain crimes are "victimless." 'JYpically , the people involved in these crimes do not regard them as harmful, do not with to be protected by the law, and do not complain to the police when a violation has taken place. Gambling, abortion, prostitution, consensual homosexual practices, and the sale and consumption of alcohol and narcotics have often been regarded as victimless in this sense (Schur, 1965; Geis, 1972). Present-day radical criminologists have generally agreed that the criminalization of these activities is undesirable! Marxists have often defended some politically motivated crimes as well, though with the understanding that socialist revolutions are not made by individual acts of terrorism, but rather through the mass revolutionary activity of the working class. These exceptions aside, Marxists have generally shared the largely negative popular view of individual acts of interpersonal violence and theft. Major non-Marxian sociologists, however, have called this common-sense view of of crime into question by pointing to frequently overlooked benefits of crime. Daniel Bell (1953), for example, has argued that the illegal business enterprises associated with organized crime provided routes for upward social mobility to members of minority groups who are discriminated against elsewhere in the economy. Such crime, he asserted, is simply the means to attain the American success promised to everyone but denied to many. In the late 1960s and in the 1970s, many on the Left also began to challenge the conventional conception of crime and criminals. The industrial working class seemed to have lost its militancy after the Second World War, and radicals tended to view it as having been co-opted by high wages. The radical challenges to American society in the 1960s thus came not from organized labor, but from the civil rights-black power movement, the white student-based antiwar movement, and then in the 1970s, from the women's liberation movement and the gay liberation movement. Groups of deviants? such as ex-mental patients, homosexuals, and ex-convicts, defined themselves as minorities subject to discrimination, and organized politically as pressure groups (Horowitz and Liebowitz, 1968; Schur, 1979:423-48). The social outlooks and political objectives of these groups varied greatly. Crime and Revolution 667 Some acted as narrow self-interest groups, seeking only to be accepted as normal within the existing framework of society. Others adopted a broader stance of opposition to "the establishment" and to mainstream, middleclass values and morality. Similar developments took place in other parts of the world. For example, Thomas Mathiesen, a Norwegian criminologist active in the prisoner support movement, noted in the context of Scandinavian welfare state capitalism (1974:124): Organization from below is considered a rational answer to coercion from above. The labour movement has given this answer to coercion from factory owners and tactOlY administrators. University students have partly given the same answer. In our time the answer is also beginning to come Ii'om groups like prisoners, handicapped people, and others who am expelled. These developments led some to the conclusion that rebellion comes from people situated "outside" the system. rather than from those who are integrated comfortably within it. The radicalization of prisoners seemed to confirm this. Behind the walls, prisoners were turning to radical political ideologies, and taking militant stands against the repressiveness of the prison system, The prison writings of radicalized prisoners like George Jackson circulated widely. Eldridge Cleaver, an ex-convict, assumed a leading role in the Black Panther Party. Given these developments, it is hardly surprising that some observers began to portray climinals and prisoners as incipient revolutionaries, or even as the "vanguard" of the revolution (Greenberg and Stender, 1972; Sternberg, 1973; Pallas and Barber, 1973). This perception was obviously grounded in reality, but at the same time it was easily distorted by wishful thinking. Ban)' Krisberg, who included selections written by prisoners Angela Davis, George Jackson, Eldridge Cleaver, and by the Panther 21 in his Crime and Privilege, may have been correct in writing that "For every prison writer who comes to public attention, there are hundreds...


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