In 1969, Austin Turk advanced a theory that explains why, in capitalist societies, conflicts exist between authorities and others. Essentially, he attributes conflict to an imbalance of power, and he attributes crime as an attempt to correct the imbalance. According to Turk, law is a set of resources that people struggle to use in order to promote their interests against the interests of others. His ideas are largely based on the ideas of Karl Marx, and they form a body of thought known as conflict criminology.
Turk’s theory of conflict criminology rests on the idea that societies are controlled by a wealthy elite that uses the resources available to them to economically exploit others and maintain dominance. It also rests on the idea that the institutions and practices in capitalist societies support this imbalance of power and thus ensure that the elite remain in control and other groups remain oppressed. Therefore, members of oppressed groups turn to crime in order to obtain the resources (i.e. material wealth) that they need to equalize the power and raise their positions. The authorities in capitalist societies are the police, the judges, the prosecutors, and others who assume the responsibility of upholding the law in the criminal justice system. Turk maintains that these are the decision makers in society, and that due to the resources available to them, they are able to manipulate the legal process.