Bonger’s Economic Theory of Criminality | Essay

He stated that the modern age is a period of capitalistic economy Bonger concluded that capitalism was one of the potential causes of criminality because the system created an atmosphere for promoting selfish tendencies in men. Even the socialist countries such as erstwhile Soviet Russia and China have experienced that the theories of economic equalisation have failed in their practical application.

This is evident from the fact that only a few decades ago former Russian Prime Minister Khurschev had to launch several incentive programmes like permitting money-loans etc. for promoting social interests. Going a step further, the former Soviet Union President Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev introduced glasnost (economic freedom) and perestroika (restructuring socialism) in 1987 for ensuring materially better and richer life and greater democratisation of Russian society.

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Commenting on the co-relationship between economic conditions and crime, W.A. Bonger concluded as follows:

(1) He prepared a statistical data and demonstrated that almost 79 per cent of the criminals belong to non-profitable class. Thus, he tried to establish a co-relationship between poverty and delinquency. In his doctoral thesis entitled Criminality and Economic Conditions, Dr. Bonger made a detailed study of the economic literature of whole Europe and concluded that crimes relating to property such as theft, stealing, robbery, dacoity, house-breaking etc. record an abnormal increase during the periods of depression when the prices are high.

(2) Bonger further observed that the influence of economic conditions on delinquency is essentially due to the capitalistic economy which breeds disparity and leads to unequal distribution of wealth. The capitalist resort to hoarding and monopolistic trends thus creating artificial scarcity and consequent rise in prices. This in turn stops production which ultimately leads to unemployment of labour, as a result of which offences such as alcoholism, vagrancy, beggary, assault, violence, etc. record an upward trend.

(3) In an economic system based on capitalism, economic cycles of inflation and deflation are frequent. Inflation gives rise to bankruptcy and insolvency with the result the persons affected thereby are forced to lead an anti-social life and some of them may even resort to criminality.

(4) Another peculiar feature of capitalistic economy is the competitive tendency among entrepreneurs. Efficiency, low-production cost and better quality of products are some of the admirable results of competitive economy. But when these efforts fail to meet the competition, unlawful devices such as violation of laws relating to trade marks, copyright, patents etc., are committed by the manufacturers. This gives rise to increase in crime rate.

(5) There is yet another danger of the capitalistic economy which contributes to enormous increase in crimes. The employment of children and women furnishes soothing ground for criminality despite effective legislative restriction banning their improper utilisation in industrial establishments.

It has been rightly observed that employment of children as labour is in itself a potential cause for crimes because a child who earns his wages does not know how to spend it usefully. Consequently, he is apt to spend his money on undesirable items such as smoking, gambling, drinking, staking, womanising and so on, which ultimately drag him into the criminal World.

The issue relating to right of children to be protected from economic exploitation and their utilisation in hazardous work has engaged the attention of world community during the preceding decade. The International Labour Organisation has vehemently opposed child labour in view of the provisions of Article 18 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 which prohibits employment of children for works which are harmful to their health or physical, mental, spiritual moral or social development.

The Government of India, however, perceives child labour as a necessary evil, a concomitant of poverty which cannot be done away with unless poverty itself is eradicated from society. The Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, prohibits engagement of children in certain hazardous employment.

However, it does not completely ban child labour but only seeks to ‘protect’ working children from exploitation. Section 14(1) and (2) of the Act provides for penalty for contravention of the provisions of the Act. The implementation and enforcement of the provisions of the Act was far from satisfactory.

Therefore, the Government came out with another law in 2006 prohibiting employment of children below the age of 14 years in hotels, shops, bakeries or as domestic servants etc. It must, however, be noted that child labour is rooted in the socio-economic conditions of the people and therefore it cannot be wiped off unless poverty itself is completely eradicated.

The employment of women also has a demoralising effect on children. With the outdoor occupational activities of mothers, the children are not properly looked after. The lack of parental care and control over children in homes may detract them from righteous path and they are likely to fall into bad company of delinquents out of sheer frustration and want of proper attention towards them.

That apart, greed for money often induces women to agree to immoral acts. Particularly, in the context of Indian society, the condition of working women is deplorable because of the lack of adequate protection to her from social dangers while she is at work. Commenting on this point Prof. Gillin rightly observed that while lack of employment seems to be hazardous for adult males the employment of women and children is associated with an increase in criminality.