Crime & Deviance- Left Realism

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Kayleigh NobleTopic 4- Left RealismA2- Sociology
Topic 4- Realist Theories, Left Realism:
Direct opposite to right realism, key theorist is Jock Young (1980) developed as a direct
response to two main factors:
The need to take the rising crime rate seriously and to produce practical solutions
The influence of right realism on government policies
Much like Marxists left realists see society as capitalist dominated and unequal. However
they are reformist rather than revolutionary sociologists. They believe in a gradual social
change rather than the violent overthrow of capitalism as the way to achieve equality.
Left realists focus on the explanations of crime that will lead to practical strategies for
reducing crime rates permanently, rather than waiting for a revolution and a classless society
to completely abolish crime.
Taking crime seriously:
The main idea of left realism is that crime is a real and growing problem that affects the
disadvantaged groups within society who are the main victims of crime. They state that
other sociologists do not take crime seriously:
Traditional Marxists- concentrated on crimes of the powerful such as corporate crime. Left
realists agree this is important but argue they neglect working class crime and its effects.
Neo Marxists- romanticise working class criminals as robin hoods, stealing from the rich as
an act of political resistance to capitalism. Left realists point out that working class criminals
mostly victimise other working class people, not the rich.
Labelling theorists- working class criminals are the victims of discriminatory labelling by
social control agents. Left realists argue that this approach neglects the real victims- the
working class people who suffer from the acts of criminals.
Left realists recognise that there has been a real increase in crime rates since the 1950's,
especially working class crime. Young (1997) argues this has led to a crisis in explanation for
theories of crime. For instance critical criminology and labelling theory tend to deny that the
increase in crime is real, they instead argue that the rise in rates is simply due to the growing
reporting of crime or an increased tendency to label the poor. They believe crime statistics
are socially constructed, not a reality. Left realists however argue that the increase is too
great to be explained as a social construction, it is real. More people are reporting crime
because more people are becoming the victims of crime.
Taking crime seriously also involves recognising who is most affected by crime. Local crime
surveys show that the scale of the problem is even greater than what is shown by official
statistics. They also show that disadvantaged groups have a greater risk of becoming

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Kayleigh NobleTopic 4- Left RealismA2- Sociology
victims, especially of burglary, street crime and violence. Unskilled workers are twice as likely
to be burgled as other people.
Therefore disadvantaged groups have a greater fear of crime and it has a greater effect on
their lives. Fear of attack can prevent women from going out at night.…read more

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Kayleigh NobleTopic 4- Left RealismA2- Sociology
to receive spiritual comfort. Such religious subcultures may encourage respectability and
conformity. For left realists criminal subcultures still subscribe to the values and goals of
mainstream society such as material possession and consumerism. They just go about
gaining these possessions differently by resorting to illegitimate means.
Marginalised groups lack clear goals and organisations to represent their interests.…read more

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Kayleigh NobleTopic 4- Left RealismA2- Sociology
material wealth, whilst denying individuals the opportunity to achieve them through
legitimate means such as well-paid jobs.
A trend in late modernity is for relative deprivation to become generalised throughout
society rather than being confined to only those at the bottom. There is widespread
resentment at the rewards that some receive without even deserving them.…read more

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Kayleigh NobleTopic 4- Left RealismA2- Sociology
tactics, this alienates communities who see the police as victimising the youths. A vicious
circle is then created- locals no longer trust the police and don't provide them with any
information, so the police resort to military policing and so on.
Left realists argue that policing must be made more accountable to local communities and
must deal with local concerns to maintain their support.…read more

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Kayleigh NobleTopic 4- Left RealismA2- Sociology
Their use of subcultural theory means that left realists assume that value consensus
exists and that crime only occurs when this breaks down.
Relative deprivation cannot fully explain crime because not all those who experience
it commit crime. The theory over predicts the amount of crime.
It focus on high crime inner city areas gives an unrepresentative view and makes
crime appear to be a greater problem than it is.…read more


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