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Marxism and Criminology: A History of Criminal Selectivity
A History of Criminal Selectivity

Winner of the 2019 Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Outstanding Book Award

In recent years the very idea of criminal justice has come under increasing scrutiny by academics, activists, and even casual observers. From the rash of extra-judicial killings by police and other officers of the law, to the manifest inequalities of the system of mass incarceration, hardly a week goes by without some new headline pointing to injustices in the way our society executes its ‘tough on crime’ ethos.

In Marxism and Criminology, Valeria Vegh Weis argues that far from being mere excesses, things like racial profiling, prosecutorial discretion, and other expressions of what the author terms over-criminalization have been constitutive features of capitalist society from its beginning. To that end, Weis sets out to rehabilitate the contributions and methodology of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to analyze crime and punishment through the historical development of capitalism in Europe and in the United States. She invites us to revisit their contributions to identify socio-economic and historic patterns of crime and punishment in order to foster transformative changes to our approach to criminal justice.


  • “The book, Marxism and Criminology, which I have received and read, must be the most extended treatment of Marx and crime made in many years...What I am fascinated by, and interested in, in this very impressive book, is the analysis according to the stages of capitalism in relation to forms of crime."
    —Prof. Richard Quinney

    "[This] path-breaking book compels us to revisit the insights of Marx and Engels and she challenges the dated, but often stated, claim made by orthodox Marxists (e.g., Hirst, 1975) that Marxist theory cannot be applied to the study of crime and law. Vegh Weis demonstrates that nothing can be further from the truth. As well, throughout her book, she contests the frequently cited declarations that Marx and Engels had very little to say about crime and that the sociology of law was little more than a secondary interest to them."
    —Walter S. DeKeseredy, Punishment & Society,

    "Marxism and Criminology is an excellent contribution to renew the debate on the causes of the growing demand for punitiviness and, at the same time, a questioning of the legal field auto-perception as emancipated from the conditions of production and reproduction of the life and the world."

    —Jorge Elbaum, Delito y Sociedad, Santa Fe, 2018.

    "[C]ertainly since Rusche and Kirchheimer and Foucault, we have an attempt at a general synthesis which brings together a vast range of empirical material on the dimensions of criminalisation which is then theorised in terms of a clearly articulated relationship to the central dynamic of capitalist development. The contribution of this book to the development of Marxist criminology and, reciprocally, criminologically-sensitive Marxism, is immense. If we want to understand where the world is heading, and the urgency of reform, then this is precisely the type of contribution we need."
    —Jhon Lea, The British Journal of Criminology

    "Valeria Vegh retakes, many decades later, the fundamental statements of Punishment and Social Structure by Rusche and Kirchheimer and goes beyond the strict consideration of the labor market to delve into the complex social and economic relations under which criminal demonstrations contemporarily take place [...] it is a real pleasure to present an investigation of the rigorousness that Valeria Vegh's work possesses. I hope that it has a long journey."

    —Iñaki Rivera Beiras, Critica Penal y Poder