4. Realist theories

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  • Realist theories
    • Right realism
      • The causes of crime
        • Crime is the product of; individual biological differences, inadequate socialisation and the underclass, and rational choice to offend rather than structural or economic factors
        • Biological differences
          • WILSON & HERSTEIN
            • Crime is caused by a combination of biological and social factors
          • Biological differences make some people innately more strongly predisposed to commit crime
          • E.g. personality traits like aggressiveness and extroversion
          • HERNSTEIN & MURRAY
            • The main cause of crime is low intelligence, which they also see as biologically determined
        • Socialisation and the underclass
          • Effective socialisation decreases the chance of an individual committing crime
          • The best agency of socialisation is the nuclear family
          • MURRAY
            • Crime rate is increasing because of a growing underclass
            • The underclass is growing in both the UK and USA
            • The underclass is a result of welfare dependency
            • The welfare state's 'generous revolution' has led to an increase in lone-parent families and therefore unbalanced socialisation
            • Absent fathers mean boys lack paternal discipline and appropriate role models
            • The underclass' very existence threatens society's cohesion by undermining the values of hard work and personal responsibility
          • BENNETT, DILULIO & WALTERS
            • Crime is a result of growing up surrounded by deviant, delinquent and criminal adults in a practically perfect criminogenic environment
        • Rational choice theory
          • Individuals have free will and the power of reason
          • CLARKE
            • The decision to commit crime is a choice based on a rational calculation of the likely consequences
            • People are more likely to commit crime if the perceived benefits outweigh the costs or is the rewards appear greater than that for non-criminal behaviour
          • Currently the perceived costs of crime are low and so crime has increased
          • FELSON
            • Routine activity theory
            • For a crime to occur, there must be a motivated offender, a suitable target and the absence of a 'capable guardian'
      • Tackling crime
        • It is not useful to try and deal with the causes of crime since they cannot easily be changed
        • They try to find ways to make crime seem less attractive
        • They focus on control, containment and punishment
        • WILSON & KELLING'S article 'Broken Windows'
          • Argues it is essential to maintain the orderly character of neighbourhoods to prevent crime taking hold
          • They advocate a 'zero tolerance' policy towards undesirable behaviour like prostitution, begging and drunkeness
          • Crime prevention policies should reduce the rewards and increase the costs of crime e.g by 'target hardening' and greater use of prison
      • EVAL
        • Ignores wider structural causes like poverty
        • Overstates offenders' rationality and how far they make cost-benefit calculations
        • Rational choice conflicts with biologically and socially determined crime
        • Preoccupied with petty street crime and ignores corporate crime
        • Zero tolerance policy gives police free rein to discriminate against ethnic minorities
        • Over-emphasises control of disorder
    • Left realism
      • Left realists are reformist socialists and its key figure is former critical criminologist JOCK YOUNG
      • Taking crime seriously
        • Traditional Marxists have concentrated on crimes of the powerful. Left realists agree that this neglects w/c crime
        • Neo-Marxists romantcise w/c criminals as Robin Hoods. Left realists point out that w/c criminals mostly victimise other w/c people
        • Labelling theorists see w/c criminals as the victims of labels by social control agents. Left realists argue that this neglects the real victims- w/c people who suffer at the hands of criminals
        • There has been a real increase in crime since the 50s, especially w/c crime
        • YOUNG
          • Increasing crime has led to an aetiological crisis- a crisis in explanation- for theories in crime
        • The increase in crime is too great to be explained by labelling theories and such, which imply that it is a social construction. More people are reporting crime because more people are falling
        • Taking crime seriously also involves recognising who is most affected by crime. Disadvantaged groups have a greater risk of becoming victims
        • Disadvantaged groups therefore have a greater fear of crime and are more effected by it
        • These groups are also less likely to report crimes because the police are often reluctant to deal with crimes like domestic violence, rape or racist attacks
      • The causes of crime
        • LEA & YOUNG: 3 related causes of crime
          • Relative deprivation
            • Deprivation itself is not directly responsible for crime
            • Crime can occur in relation to how deprived someone feels in comparison to another
            • Although poeple are better off, they are more aware of relative deprivation due to the media
            • YOUNG
              • 'The lethal combination is relative deprivation and individualism'. It causes crime by encouraging the pursuit of self-interest at the expense of others
            • Increasing individualism is causing the disintegration of families and communities by undermining it's values of mutual support and selflessness
            • This creates a spiral of anti-social behaviour, aggression and crime
          • Subculture
            • Very much based of MERTON and CLOWARD & OHLIN'S blocked opportunities and group subcultures
            • A subculture for left realists is a group's collective decision to the problem of relative deprivation
            • Different groups may produce different subculutures
            • Criminal subcultures still subscribe to the values and goals of mainstream society. However, opportunities to achieve these goals legitimately are blocked do they resort to street violence
          • Marginalisation
            • Marginalised groups lack both clear goals and organistion to represent their interests
            • Unemployed youths for example are marginalised unlike workers with a trade union
            • These youths have no organisation to represent them and no clear goals just a sense of resentment and frustration
            • Their helplessness leads them to commit crime as they cannot use political means to create change
      • Late modernity, exclusion and crime
        • YOUNG
          • We are now living in the stage of late modern society
          • Instability, insecurity and exclusion in this society make the problem of cime worse
          • The 1950s and 60s represented a 'golden age' of modern capitalist society as there was a strong general consensus about right and wrong
        • De-industrialisation and the loss of unskilled manual jobs have increased unemployment and poverty.
        • These changes have destabilised the family and community  and increased marginalisation and exclusion of those at the bottom
        • Greater inequality between the poor and rich and the spread of the free market have encouraged individualism further and increased relative depprivation
        • JOCK also argues that there is a growing contrast between cultural inclusion and economic exclusion as a source of relative deprivation:
          • Media-saturated late modernity promotes cultural inclusion
          • There is a greater emphasis on leisure, which stresses personal consumption and immediate gratification and leads to higher expectations for the'good life'
          • Desipte the ideology of meritocracy, the poor are systematically excluded from opportunities to gain the 'glittering prizes of a wealthy society'
        • The result of the trend towards exclusion is that the amount and types of crime are changing in late modern society
        • Crime is more widespread and is found increasingly throughout the social structure, not just at the bottom
          • The result of the trend towards exclusion is that the amount and types of crime are changing in late modern society
        • Crime is also nastier with an increas in hate crimes
          • Reactions to crime by the public are also changing
          • The public have become more intolerant  and leads to demands  for harsher formal controls by the state and increased criminalisation of unacceptable behaviour
            • Reactions to crime by the public are also changing
          • Late modern society is thus a high-crime society which a low tolerance for crime
        • Tackling crime
          • Policing and control
            • KINSEY, LEA & YOUNG
              • Police clear-up rates are too low to act as a deterrent to crime
              • The public must become more involved in determining the police's priorities and style of policing
            • The police are losing public support
            • As a result the flow of information dries up and the police come to rely on military policing and using random stop and search tactics
            • This alienates communities who see the police as victimising local youth, and result in a vicious circle
            • Policing must therefore made more accountable to local communities and must deal with local concerns
            • Crime control cannot be left to the police along- a multi-agency approach is required
            • The police need to improve their relationship with the community by spending more time investigating crime, changing their priorities and involving the public in making policing policy
          • Tackling the structural causes
            • Left realists do not see improved policing as the main solution
            • The causes of crime lie in the unequal structure of society
            • Major structural changes are needed if we want to reduce levels of offending
            • We must also become more tolerant of diversity and cease stereotyping whole groups of people as criminal
          • Left realism and government policy
            • Left realists' views have strong similarities with the New Labour government's stance of being 'tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime'
            • However, YOUNG regards many of the policies from the New Labour gov.  as nostalgic and doomed attempts to recreate the conditions of the 'golden age'
        • They see society as an unequal capitalist one and believe in gradual social change rather than a violent overthrow of capitalism like for Marxists
        • We must take action to reduce crime now rather than waiting for a revolution and a classless socialist utopia to abolish crime
        • EVAL
          • HENRY & MLOVANOVIC
            • It accepts the authorities definition of crime as being street crime committed by the poor, instead of defining it as being a problem of how powerful groups harm the poor
          • INTERACTIONISTS: we need qualitative date to understanding the meanings behind criminal acts
          • Relative deprivation cannot fully explain crime as not all those who experience it commit crime
      • Realists see crime as a real problem to b tackled and not juts a social construction created by social agencies
      • Comparing left and right realism
        • Both see crimeas a real problem
        • Right realists are neo-conservative whereas left realists are reformist socialisats
        • Right realists blame individual lack of self-control, while left realists blame structural inequalities and relative deprivation
        • Right realists prioritise social order, achieved through a tough stance against offenders whereas left realists prioritise justice achived through democratic policing and reform to create equality

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