Assess the value of the right realist approach to crime and deviance (21 marks)

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Assess the value of the right realist approach to crime and deviance (21 marks)
right realism sees crime, especially street crime, as a real and growing problem that destroys
communities, undermines social cohesion and threatens society's work ethic. The right realist
approach to crime has been very influential in the UK, the USA and elsewhere. Right realist views
on crime correspond closely with those of neo-conservative governments during the 1970s and
80s. for example, policy makers argues that `nothing works' ­ criminologists had produced many
theories of crime, but no workable solutions to curb rising crime rate. This led to a shift in official
thinking, away from the search for the causes of crime and towards the search for practical crime
control measures. Right realists criticise other theories for failing to offer any practical solutions to
the problem of rising crime. They also regard theories such as labelling and critical criminology as
too sympathetic to the criminal and too hostile to the forces of law and order. Right realists are
less concerned to provide what they see as realistic solutions. However, although their main
emphasis is on practical crime reduction strategies, they do in fact offer an explanation of the
causes of crime.
Right realists reject the idea put forward by Marxists and others that structural or economic
factors such as poverty and inequality are the cause of crime. For example, against the Marxist
view, they point out that the old tend to be poor yet they have a very low crime rate. For right
realists, crime is the product of three factors; individual biological differences, inadequate
socialisation and the underclass, and rational choice to offend. Wilson and Herrnstein (1985) put
forward a biosocial theory of criminal behaviour. In their view, crime is caused by a combination of
biological and social factors. Biological differences between individuals make some people innately
more strongly predisposed to commit crime than others. For example, personality traits such as
aggressiveness, extroversion, risk taking and low impulse control put some people at greater risk
of offending. Similarly, Herrnstein and Murray (1990) argues that the main cause of crime is low
intelligence, which they also see as biologically determined.
However, while biology may increase the chance of an individual offending, effective socialisation
decreases the risk, since it involves learning self- control and internalising moral values of right
and wrong. For right realists, the best agency of socialisation is the nuclear family. Murray (1990)
argues that crime rate is increasing because of a growing underclass or `new rabble' who are
defined by their deviant behaviour and who fail to socialise their children properly. According to
Murray, the underclass is growing in both the USA and the UK as a result of welfare dependency.
Rational choice theory, assumes that individuals have free will and the power of reason. Rational
choice theorists such as Clarke (1980) argue that the decision to commit crime is a choice based on
a rational calculation of the likely consequences. If the perceived rewards of the crime outweigh
the perceived costs of the crime, or the rewards of the crime are greater than those of
non-criminal behaviour, then people will be more likely to offend. Right realists argue that
currently the perceived costs of crime are low and this is why the crime rate has increased. Felson
(1998) argues that for a crime to occur there must be a motivated offender, a suitable target and
the absence of a `capable guardian'. Offenders are assumed to act rationally, so that the presence
of a guardian is likely to deter them from offending. Felson argues that informal guardians such as
those provided by the community are more effective than formal ones such as the police. For
example, in the chaise following Hurricane Andrew in Florida 1982, patrols by local citizens to

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Right realists do not believe it is fruitful to try to deal with the causes of crime since these cannot
be easily changed. Instead they seek to devise practical measures to make crime less attractive.
Their main punishment of offenders rather than eliminating the underlying causes of their
offending or rehabilitating them. Wilson and Kelling's (1982) article `Broken Windows' argues that
it is essential to maintain the orderly character of neighbourhoods to prevent crime taking hold.…read more


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