Relation between Crime and Economic Condition

The relation between crime and economic condition in general is based on two main conflicting views:

  1. That the relation between crime and an economic condition is direct or positive; that is, crime, which is an extension of normal economic activity, increases or decreases as the economy rises or falls. In addition to Enrico Ferri’s original research and his famous work “Law of Criminal Situation”, Phillip Paulette evolved considerably this view.
  2. That the relationship between the economy and crime is reversed; that is, under favorable economic conditions, the crime rate is relatively low, but in times of economic depression, crime has a big upward trend. This belief finds support in all Marxist doctrines and Leftist politics. W. A. Bonger, a well-known Dutch sociologist, strongly supported this assertion.

Analyzing the influence of economic conditions on crime, Professor Hermann Mannheim observed that, leaving aside traffic violations, three-quarters of the time and energy of criminal law administrators in the world should be devoted to economic crime. Concentrating on the significance of economic factors in the crime causation, he pointed out that poverty both directly and indirectly contributes to the commission of crimes. However, poverty in itself cannot be the direct cause of crime, since other factors such as frustration, emotional insecurity and unfulfilled desires often play a dominant role in generating a criminal tendency.

Marxist theory emphasized that all human behavior is determined economic factors. Supporting this view, Fredrik Engels attributed the increase in crime in England in the mid-eighteenth century to the deplorable economic situation of the workers due to class exploitation. V. A. Bonger also applied the same approach to explaining the causes of crime and argued that the criminal was a product of the capitalist system that generates selfish trends. In such a system, each person tries to get the maximum from others in exchange for the minimum from himself. In this way, Bonger identifies many of the vices of the capitalist system responsible for the spread of criminal behavior. In fact, the theory of radical criminology is based on this concept, which further explains that crime is due to the exploitation of the poor the rich.