Chapter 8 Delinquency in Context

Learning resources: (1) -; (2) Explorations in Social Inequality -; (3) Children below the poverty level (census data); (4) Children left behind – a UNICEF report

 Recession of 2008 - ??? 


·         The Capitalist mode of production

·         Forces (or means) of production (raw materials, skills, technology, etc.)

·          relations of production  (social classes of owners and workers)

·         Based mostly on occupation, which in turn determines much about people’s lives

 Who owns the means of production? 

·         See example of Green Bay, Wis.

·         More jobs created in foreign countries than here at home


 The Drive for Profit 

·         Desire to obtain prestige and distinction among one’s fellow human beings explains this drive

·         “capital” results in power over others

·         Adam Smith:

·         “Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality.  For on rich man, there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the rich supposes the indigence of the many. “

 Power, Control & commodities  

·         The desire for power and control permeates all of society

·         From the richest corporate tyrants to the lowest street drug dealer, mugger and rapist

·         What is happening is that everyone is buying and selling “commodities”

·         Commodity is the most important term, which is why the first chapter in Marx’s “Das Capital” is devoted to the subject


·         Everything is turned into a “commodity”

·         From the simplest products (e.g., paper and pencil) to human beings (e.g., women’s bodies, slaves).

·         any aspect of society that can produce a profit will be exploited, including the misery and suffering of people who have been victimized by crime

·         Can you give more examples? 

Invisible hand or corporate welfare? 

·         Smith’s idea of the “invisible hand” turns out to be a somewhat misnomer

·         The “free market” is mostly a myth

·         Just look at the defense contracts and other examples of government (i.e., taxpayer assistance) like the entire airline industry, the media, oil companies, railroad companies (in the 19th century), etc. – all got some kind of subsidy from taxpayers

 Surplus Population 

·         Inevitable under capitalism

·         This group in turn commits various kinds of property and other “predatory” crimes

·         Gangs spring from this source

·         lumpenproletariat – a term Marx used to describe the lowest stratum and those most heavily involved in “street crime”

·         Then there is corporate crime

o    Annual take of more than $1.5 trillion 


·         capital and labor  - each wants more of the economic pie

·         Called “class conflict”

·         Owners have consistently won this battle

·         CEO’s and the political class that supports them (who owns the US Congress?) get most of the benefits

o    CEO pay is now 400 times greater than avg. factory worker (30 years ago it was about 42 to one ratio)

o    Major corporations and their CEO’s have made billions during the recession

o    See this story:

o    More than 80% of American corporations have offshore tax havens:


Class Distinctions

Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed  


·         technological

·         globalization of the economy

·         movement of capital (capital flight)

·         shift from manufacturing to information and services (from high wage to low)

·         We are a “low-wage society.”

 Decline of Manufacturing Jobs 

      Here’s a recent report by CEPR:

     •      See this chart from USA Today

      The Wal-Mart effect -Its Chinese imports have displaced nearly 200,000 U.S. jobs

 Most recent report on Economic situation in the US


      Wage growth is low.

      Benefits are disappearing - The share of private sector workers with a pension dropped from 50.3% in 2000 to 43.2% in 2006, the last year for which data are available, and the share of people with employer-provided health insurance dropped from 64.2% to 59.7%.

      Family debt is on the rise.

      Housing market slows

      Home equity declines

      Weak job growth

      Poverty stays high

      Improvements in government’s finances are temporary. In August 2007, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the deficit for 2007 amounted to $158 billion, $14 billion less than projected in January. Yet the cumulative budget deficit from 2008 to 2012 increased sharply from $194 billion to $696 billion in CBO’s projections.

      Tax cuts do not pay for themselves. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the tax enacted since 2001 would cost $300 billion in 2007 alone, such that the federal government would show a surplus had it not been for President Bush’s tax cuts.

 Decline in wages 

·         Male decline especially and many males no longer in the work force

·         Especially hard hit are black males

·         1/3 or more of black males in their 20s are somewhere in the CJ system

·         1/3 of black males born today will end up in prison or jail (they occupy a large part of the “surplus labor” 

Women’s wages & work 

      Women concentrated in lowest wage occupations

      Only 66% of men are employed full time versus 80% in 1970; in contrast, the proportion of women in the labor force increased from 34% to over 55%.  A portion of the gains for women are attributable to an increase in the proportion of workers employed as temporary workers. As of 2009, 26.5%  of women workers worked part time, compared to 13.2% of the men; 19.5% of all workers were working part-time 

Growing inequality 


 Growth of Underclass 

·         Esp. high for minorities

·         From 1977 to 1999 black families showed no significant improvement as far as financial standing is concerned


The Truly Disadvantaged  

·         Two important studies by Wilson documents the effects of the aforementioned economic changes

·         male unemployment is the leading cause of the rise in female-headed households

·         Increasing isolation and segregation within inner cities (which often resemble Third World countries or war zones – like Detroit and Los Angeles, among others)

·         Do your own “drive through” in Las Vegas

·         Rifkin’s study The End of Work documents impact on blacks 

Plenty of $ for prisons 

          Calif. proposed (2007) to spend $7.4 billion on 40,000 new prison beds (in addition to the already $10 billion per year spent on prisons)

      This equals $185,000 for each bed!

          CA spends about $240,000 per year per offender in juvenile facilities

          Meanwhile, most states are tightening their belts everywhere else, causing more job loses


Segmented labor market  

·         Whites concentrated here

·         Secondary labor market – lowest pay, little job security, fewest benefits

·         Minorities concentrated here 

Impact on Gangs 

·         Comments by two noted experts on gangs:

·         Joan Moore:

·         This is a world of limited opportunities, with legitimate jobs offering little prospect for lifetime satisfaction. In this respect, the segmented labor market becomes an essential concept for understanding the structure and context of the Chicano gang, the use and marketing of illegal drugs and stolen merchandise, and the prison involvements of the residents of the Los Angeles barrios  

·         Malcolm Klein notes that: “Uneducated, underemployed young males turn to the illegal economies enhanced by gang membership, including selling drugs in some instances. Older males who in earlier decades would have ‘matured’ into more steady jobs and family roles hang on to the gang structure by default. The newer gang cities like Milwaukee thus emerge, looking much like the traditional gang cities.”  

Death of Childhood in the Inner Cities  

·         Between 1990 and 2004 the % of children found on “skid row” went from 1% to 15%, while the proportion of women went from 18% to 1/3

·         Children under the age of 18 constitute 39% of the homeless population—42% of the children are less than five years old