Although Marx did not write specifically about criminal behavior, he was concerned with how social structure affected behavior. He felt that a capitalist two-class social structure, consisting of the ruling class (the bourgeoisie) and the working class (the proletariat), permitted the bourgeoisie to control and oppress the proletariat and thus affect their behavior. Marx felt the only way this oppression could change would be for the proletariat to revolt against the bourgeoisie. Bonger later applied Marx’s theory to criminal behavior by hypothesizing that the capitalistic social structure induces and encourages greed and selfishness, which then leads to criminal behavior. Marxist supporters fall into two major groups. The first group is the instrumentalists, who view the political state as only and always an instrument of the capitalist state. The second group is the structuralists, who see the view the political state as having some "relative autonomy" and not totally under the domination of the ruling elite.
Colvin and Pauly attempted to link structural-Marxism and behavior by postulating that workplace control structures affect the family control structure according to the parents’ locations within the workplace control structure. They found that parents controlled their children in the same ways they were being controlled at their jobs, but the researchers could not make the link between class and behavior.
In 1988, Hagan analyzed interviews with 1,049 randomly selected Americans to determine how race and class position were related to the perception of criminal injustice. The data showed that blacks were significantly more likely than whites to perceive criminal injustice but that class position conditioned their perceptions. Hagan concluded that class conflict does exist in regard to criminal injustice. He felt his findings were important to Marxists because the data pointed out that class position was significant to the understanding of crime. However, he also felt the findings would be important to non-Marxists because, even if they did not agree that class injustice exists, they would agree that the perception of class injustice does indeed exist.