Crime and Deviance- Theories

AQA spec for crime and deviance, unit 4

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Durkheim's View of Crime

  • "Crime integral part of all healthy societies"
  • Diverse societies are bound to have higher levels of deviance because we are so different e.g. different cultures and therefore different norms and values. Also secularisation and social change have led to society being very unsettled.
  • 2 Positive Functions of Crime:- BOUNDARY MAINTENANCE= tells us where the boundaries are and what will happen to us if we deviate e.g. prisons are said to be scary places where you 'change'. Cohen= says the media like to dramatise evils by creating folk devils.- ADAPTATION AND CHANGE= Deviance shows the problems in society. People challenge existing norms and values which shows that they no longer mean anything or suit society. This can lead to anomie and therefore indicate that things need to change. If there is too little deviance shows that people are being oppressed... this is a bad thing so small amounts of deviance are good.
  • EVAL= He fails to explain how much deviance is needed to be normal/ healthy. Not everything has a purpose/ function... **** isn't functional for the victim. Deviance doesn't always promote social solidarity... it can marginalise victims from wider society.
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Other Functions of Crime

Davis= Prostitution- Gives jobs, fulfils sexual needs/ desires and can therefore reduce ****, calms sexual frustrations. EVAL- not everything has a function! feminists say prostitution oppresses women! Polsky= ***********- fulfils some sexual needs, calms sexual frustrations. Its now very accessible on internet/ magazines etc. Very high % of 10- 15 yr olds have seen **** and see it on a regular basis. It can be argued that the threshold of **** in today's society is damaging the normal vision of sexual activity.  High Truancy Rates- Indicate a big problem in society espeially schools... why don't they want to stay in school?

Some sorts of behaviour are ignored but only if you suit the 'image'. Middle class, speech, dress etc. If you look 'better' your behaviour is more likely to be ignored than if you look working class. This is to allow certain amounts of deviance happen.  EVAL= who produces this image? is it stereotypes??? HIDDENS FUNCTIONS OF CRIME- it provides an interesting and important analysis that directs attention to the ways that deviance can have a hidden function e.g. not everything that looks bad for society is actually bad for society.

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Merton's Strain Theory

The American Dream= America is a land of opportunity where everyone will gain success- financially and materially. Meritocracy is encouraged.However, the 'dream' must be transferred from generation to generation.. this may noty be happening in post modern society.

The Strain of achieving success the legitmate way is too much... they then go to illegitimate ways to gain success. The dream is based on strong family values and community...when this isn't present crime and deviance occur. Strain theory reflects the strain between the goals set by society and the chances of gaining them

EVAL- many don't believe in meritocracy and that the dream is actually possible. there are more innovatists in todays society. The gap between the failures and the winners in USA has widened due to there being no welfare state making it harder for those at the bottom to get themselves harder. This only describes utilitarian crime (useful for the individual e.g. stealing to gain money)... what about other crimes such as state and green crimes?. It focusses only on individual and not group responses. Only explains men... feminists would say they ignore women

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Merton's Strain Theory- Anomic Paradigm

CONFORMISTS= Most of society most of the time. They follow the American Dream goals legitimately

INNOVATISTS= most deviant. They follow american dream but do it illegitimately

RITUALISM= They can see what they have to do but refuse to play along. Dont follow goals but are legitimate... just lack aspiration

RETREATISM= the dream means nothing... dont get involved anywhere. Dont follow goals and are illegitmate but don't steal just do drugs etc instead

REBELLION= They want goals but dont want to work for them. They then blame others for their misfortune. They see what they have to do but can't be bothered to change it.

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Cohen- Status Frustration

  • Agrees with Merton that crime is often a lower class issue but looks at group not individual responses.
  • Cultural and Material deprivation---> lack of qualifications--> they have status frustration (get angry a fight back!!!)--> they turn to delinquent subcultures--> (SUGARMAN= w. class seek immediate gratification and present time orientation)--> blame society for their misfortune e.g government and unemployment--> try to gain status through being infamous e.g becoming gang leader
  • EVAL= It assumes that all w.class start off with the same goals as the m.class meaning they never saw themselves as failures in the first place. However it does offer a explanation for non- utilitarian crime. Feminists= only studying males and ignoring females
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Cloward and Ohlin- Opportunity Structures

  • People have different opportunities to be deviant e.g single mum with job in middle class area would have very little time to be deviant. There are 3 main subcultures turn to crime:
  • 1) CRIMINAL SUBCULTURES= several generations of hardened criminals e.g. The Mitchell's from Eastenders. People in the area will learn from them as this is the only way to gain success in these areas for most. Its like an apprenticeship!. This gives them access to illegitimate opportunity structures
  • 2) CONFLICT SUBCULTURES= not as many hardened criminals. very mobile popualtion so structure of family and society are changing frequently... not enough time to learn anything decent. MURRAY- you need a strong community to reduce crime
  • 3) RETREATIST SUBCULTURES= neither 1 or 2 exist. Very little anger. No group work only individual responses. The criminality only stays in the youth for most. They retreat to drugs etc. They are double failures as they have failed to gain legitimate and illegitimate success
  • EVAL= the subcultures overlap.Some towns have all of these.Too simplistic. Doesn't explain where nothing happens. Not everywhere is or will be deviant (deterministic).Post modernists- some crime happens due to excitement/ boredom.Doesn't explain m.class crime
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  • Studied 1960's London
  • W.class lads completely disassociated from mainstream values
  • They only gained immediate gratification... didn't think if future/ long terms plans
  • Sugarman= present time orientation can increase deviance
  • EVAL= Matza- Everyone has subterranean values... not just w.class. Most people control their deviant thoughts most of the time. When we can't control them we use justification to justify them e.g. it was just a laugh, he hit me first, i was really drunk.
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Miller- Focal Concerns

  • Explains why deviance is linked to lower class male culture
  • They spend more time outside to increase their 'hardness' but this actually attracts more attention
  • Smartness- looks good and is witty
  • Trouble- I don't go looking for trouble but...
  • Excitement- adrenaline rushes etc
  • Fate- they are out to get me. its bound to happen at some point
  • Autonomy- can't be pushed around by others
  • Toughness- being physically stronger than other s and being able to demonstrate this is very important

Being able to show all of these is very important. this increases crime rates as crime shows most of these qualities. EVAL= Most boys these days find other ways to show toughness etc e.g. bodybuilding. Boys don't have this going through their head on a daily basis. Girls are just a deviant in some cases... they just aren't caught e.g. bedroom culture.

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Nightingale- "On the Edge"

  • Black Inner city study
  • Studied paradox of inclusion
  • Ethnic minorities excluded from mainstream American dream- economically, racially, politically
  • Ethnic minorities watched TV a lot as wanted what they saw on MTV- Fresh Prince of Bel Air etc. They then get included in success but ironically (paradoxically) illegitimately
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Bourgois- "In Search of Respect"

  • He lived with those involved and did a covert observation
  • All studied had bling, the stance, lived in ghetto, muscles etc. Most were bouncers in night club. In New York, USA
  • They all wanted success but had to do it illegitimately. They were in mines, asbestos cleaners etc. but this was life threatening to them. They got ill (short anf long term). Only alternative was drug dealing. Didnt use drugs personlly but liked the money that came from it. Regularly expressed stress through inequality
  • Regular use of violence gained mobility and status. Violence is a currecny in this area. It was gained immediately (SUGARMAN- immediate gratification) unlike mainstream jobs.
  • very interested in conspicuous consumption (showing the wealth you have earned) but this actually got lots of attetnion from police etc as they didn't stereotypically suit the wealth they had on them
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Recent Subcultural Theory- Hall

  • Looks at capitalist society. Capitalism creates ideological control. People have a dual consciousness- the thought of rebellion and their awareness of hegemonic values. This leaves them in a difficult situation... to rebel or not to.He looks back at certain decades. Rebellion seems to be a response against capitalism
  • 50's= Teddy Boys. They rebelled against mainstream values. Society was recovering from the war... they were constantly working to re- build society. They joined subcultures to get away from the pressures of work
  • 80's= Punks. They were anti- capitalist. Very rebellious... visibly too. Their songs showed their agenda.
  • EVAL= Is it deliberate anti- capitalism or is it them just trying to be individual? Their protests were nothing compared to today's protests e.g. London Riots Summer 2011.
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  • Working class communities have been broken since the war due to technology becoming better and manual work therefore decreasing. Groups like the 1970's Skinheads are a representative of the working class toughness.
  • Due to lack of jobs... they have to show there toughness in another way. E.g. football hooliganism
  • They are then moving on to threaten communities e.g. queer bashing
  • This is supposed to solve their masculinity crisis
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Willis- The Lads

  • Looked at working class lads in the 70's
  • The lads rebelled at school because they knew they had a job at the end of it... manual work
  • They knew that school tried to 'control' them.
  • This actually stopped them from becoming a success as they ended up in dead end jobs
  • Some have to fail for society to function correctly
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Brake- Magical Resistance

  • Creating an illusion
  • They dress as if they are going to work but add their own rebellion to it e.g. steel cap boots, spiky hair etc.
  • They are trying to uphold the toughness they once had
  • There is need for the tough man any more... we need office men
  • They gained status and respect through image
  • UPDATE- we now have aggressive dogs (status breeds) to show how tough we are. We train them to attack on command. We breed them to have big heads and mouths with lots of muscle to intimidate others
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Classical Marxism

MARX- "There must be something rotten in the very core of a social system which increases wealth without diminishing its misery and increases crime". Miserable when you don't have it... miserable when you do have it

ENGELS- " Crime is a manifestation of social demoralisation; a collapse of people's humanity reflecting a decline in society... capitalist society reduces workers to animal like creatures without a will of their own"

BONGER- "Society is composed of haves and havents. Laws reflect the interests of the dominant class. Capitalism encourages egoism and criminality by equating status with property. Only the poor are punished for crimes"

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Eval of Clasical Marxism

  • + a useful explanation of the relationship between crime and capitalist society. helps us to understand capitalists design and enforce laws. We are therefore more likely to see which subcultures are more likely to be policed and others that are more likely to be overlooked. It highlights how some companies can break the law the make profit
  • - ignores issues of gender and ethnicity. Too deterministic. Some capitalist societies have very low crime rates c/a however the USA lacks a welfare state which can lead to crime. Forgets about inter class crime... some w.class can steal from other w.class people etc. need to consider the victims in this
  • NOW= more big companies are being prosecuted for breaking the law. We are gaining more expertise in catching criminals e.g. fraud. E.g. MP's scandal. however crimes such as fraud etc. is still happening an d the working class are still getting punished more and harsher. This is supported by the punishments given to those who were involved in the summer riots of 2011.
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Infrastructure vs. Superstructure

  • The capitalist core of society, the infrastructure, affects all the surrounding institutions e.g. education, law and media.
  • Therefore capitalism affects the making of the law, the enforcement, and the reasons for crime and deviance themselves occurring
  • All institutions are controlled by capitalist core infrastrcuture e.g. long shadow effect


  • it causes crime. Exploitation of the working class almost inevitably leads to crime. Poverty and greed creates need. This leads people to feel alienated and frustrated which creates rebellion.
  • However, it could be said that very few turn to this
  • Greed causes crime. We want culture etc. MP scandal e.g. duck house, church donation, dog food etc claimed from our taxes. They commit crime but we then commit criem to get the same as them.
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Gordon and Chambliss

GORDON- Crime is a rational response to the capitalist system. It's found in all social classes, even though the statistics make it look like its just a working class problem. The system is weighted against the working class. Selective law enforcement makes it seem that individuals are to blame for problems in society rather than capitalism.Crime and the dramatization of folk devils diverts attention away from exploitation and focuses on labelling the evil of the working class

CHAMBLISS- most of the laws that are reinforced are to do with the protection of property and wealth. e.g In Africa, British colonists punished locals for not paying their taxes which were very high anyway. This gave the Brits profit from high taxes, fines and cheap labour. This is an example of a purely oppressive law. However this is out of date.

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  • The capitalist state is reluctant to pass laws that regulate the activities of businesses or threaten their profitability.
  • She reminds that more people are killed in industrial incidents/ health and safety breaches etc. yet profitable, dangerous businesses such as coal mining are still around.
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Selective Law Enforcement

  • All social classes commit crime yet the lower classes are more likely to be prosecuted
  • Street crimes against property and showing possible rebellion are more likely to be regularly and harshly punished. This is to keep social control.
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Examples of Crimes That Have Affected Thousands


December 1984. Plant produced pesticide for farmers locally and globally. Kept up with demand as it's very profitable. But when a poisonous vapour exploded from the plant thousands would be affected. Several factors led to the explosion all of which the company knew about it was called corporate negligence. Immediately 2000 died and 300, 000 were injured. 7000 animals injured including 1000 dead. Its still affecting people today; birth defects, blindness, burns etc. "The lucky ones were the ones who died". Its seen as the biggest human tragedy in the workplace. The company finally admitted reliability and paid a small compensation.

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Examples of Crimes That Have Affected Thousands


Thalidomide was used to reduce and prevent morning sickness in pregnant women. It was very popular. No immediate side effects for most. Once children were born it was very noticeable. Weak, short limbs etc. Concerns were raised to doctors which reported it to manufacturing company. However, they still sold them with no warning etc. to taking them. The UK also kept buying them too. Around 50 yrs later, UK government has finally compensated and apologised... its too late damage has already been done. 10,000 babies born with defects... they were given £20,000 per year of life but that hasn't helped cure their defects.

In all of these we must consider who is the criminal???

The consumers? The companies? Governments? Those who fail to report faults?

That is why they are so hard to prosecute because there are so many people/ companies involved.

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  • Fruit machine analogy
  • The working class put all their money in hoping that they will win something... yet very few do.
  • The middle/ upper classes put less money in and yet get more profit out of it.
  • This is because the middle/ upper classes have rigged the machine to give them the profit and the lower classes less.
  • The working class don't seem to notice that the middle class have rigged the machine because they are too busy blaming who government etc tell them who is responsible for it e.g. immigrants, hoodies etc.
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Health and Safety Laws

When they are eventually passed, they appear to benefit the employer... but could this be so that they are fitter to work harder and for longer???

Pearce= such laws create a false consciousness amongst workers. They think they are being protected but they are just being given the things needed to work longer and harder without the company being prosecuted.

e.g. if office workers who sit down 9-5 and work 5 days a week full time are offered a gym membership it means that the company can't be sued for anything if the person gets DVT. Exercise also makes employees healthier and therefore working for longer.

Carson= 1971- all 200 firms studied broke health and safety laws and only 2 companies were prosecuted successfully for it.

However in today's society more companies are being prosecuted e.g HPV vaccine concerns... looked into and lots of research being done.

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Neo- Marxism

Have a voluntaristic view of crime... you commit crime because you want to. we aren't puppets

Government concern, forces or law and order --> media amplification --> labelling of deviance especially deviance which goes against the capitalist status quo.

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Interpretavist and Phenomenological- Basic Theory

Official stats are not hard facts they are social constructs. We construct the world through individual/ group face-to- face interactions. crime is the product of interactions between suspects and police, rather than the results of sub- cultural activity or blocked opportunity structures. In today's society if police targets are met then some criminal acts are ignored however when they aren't they nit- pick small acts of deviance.

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Society contains moral entrepreneurs (old conservative people who are seen as respectable by most of society)which can often lead to change the law, believing it will benefit all involved. Moral crusades are created by the media to scare society into doing as they say.Victorian moral entrepreneurs created the idea of juvenile delinquency . the youth educated not to do this. Compulsory education helps keep control on society and try to put ideas of 'acceptable actions' in tp their heads for the future.

MURRAY- moral crusades are created by the New Right

BECKER- new laws create new groups of outsiders and bring those who were once outsiders back in to their social control.

PILIVAN AND BRIAR- police arrest decisions were based on physical cues and individual judgements of character e.g. age, gender, ethnicity, time, place.


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Cicourel- The Decision To Stop

Even when committing the same crimes in same environment, social classes are treated differently. W.CLASS- police start conversation (speech etc considered), if they don't fit a certain image they are taken to station, parents are told and act in typical w.class way (get in face, street language used), person is then charged and is taken to courts where they are unable to buy advice and aren't given any. M.CLASS- stopped, conversation started, usually respectful and sent home, if not them parents are alerted and they ensure police it won't happen again etc and the person is sent home, if not (which is rarely) legal advice and preparations given to person before court session etc. If its a fine parents usually pay it off. E.g. Stephen Lawrence= he was a black youth who was stabbed for no reason at a bus stop. Because he was black he wasn't given the CPR etc he should have been given. His friend was also accused of killing him although it was just a racist white gang of youths.     M.class are more likely to have menatl problems due to parenting and policing. Therefore more likely to get counselling. W.class wont receive this help due to it being seen as behaviour issues/ have lack of money.  1969 Children and Young Person's Act- if kid from good home etc not sentenced. MATZA- w.class gets blame yet again.In suicide coroner decides if its suicide so its quite subjective. In overall crime stats, different towns record crime differently so maybe it isn't less crime is done maybe its less is recorded.  EVAL- experience in police force means these stereotypical views are often correct. He doesnt explain where these images come from

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BOX- Observes Jury. He was part of jury when observing. Theft case being studied. Person was convicted as a thief. During the case they were talking about fiddling with finances etc. Found that the w.class got worse sentences whilst the m.class got away pretty lightly. 'Criminal ' becomes master status for convicted. This is very difficult to shake off and it overrides other statuses such as dad, friend. They  then see themselves as a criminal and nothing else meaning they end up becoming a criminal and join a deviant subculture.

LEMERT- Primary deviance= deviance before its been labelled. If unnoticed it will fade away. Secondary deviance= when stigmatised by society for deviant act it becomes a problem. E.g. stuttering only becomes a problem when noticed by others and said to be weird.

GOFFMAN- Studied mental hospitals. Its a total institution as once in its part of their lives 24/7. Label sticks to them which can actually increase the issues they went in with. In prisons, they ***** you of your personal identity aka dehumanising. They become shadow of former self, given timetable which decreases freedom. When released they cant adjust to normality they then revert to what the know deviance. Then given master status due deviance. CONC= institutions increase rather than decrease deviance. EVAL= Goffman is too deterministic. Institutions give courses to help them adapt to normality

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Should Punishment be Re-Integrative?

JOCK YOUNG- led student lifestyle. smoked for fun. not overly deviant. Media over reacted on their behaviour causing increased interest in them. the students then stopped working/ going to uni and smoked more. They then fitted the label the media gave them. "we will give them something to moan about" attitude. Once this happened they could reintegrate back into society so became deviant e.g. more harmful drugs used and crime used. Later Young becomes a left realist... drugs are harmful and labelling can be justified.

COHEN-60's mods and rockers went to seaside festivals in bank holidays. No problem really but really public were suspicious of oncoming trouble amplified by media. Moral entrepreneurs involved. Moral crusade begins. Over policing and reporting attracted more attention. People reacted back to show them 'real trouble'. caused more deviance.

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Right Realism

Conservative view. Thatcher and Major etc. THATCHER= "no such thing as society". A you need to fix yourself view.      Get tough,. Zero tolerance to crime. Harsh penalties. Schools bought in tough teachers to ensure conformity.    Feckless parents= lots of mums to one dad. They then fail to socialise them properly.    MAJOR= Back to Basics- nuclear, married, patriarchal and disciplinarian dad enforced.    MURRAY= underclass increasing (no desire to work, young, live off benefits, short term sexual relationships). children brought up by them have no concern for society's values and would rather commit crime. Poorer societies are ruined by the underclass.    WILSON= broken window thesis. most communities consist of a balance between those given freedom and those who tend to be law abiding. He argues that its important for potential offenders should be forced to obey most minor laws. If these aren't enforced then Anti social behaviour increases. Local control is essential for maintenance of law and order. EVAL= stats aren't always true.   Conservatives worry about matrifocal communities where there are very few fathers.   FUKUYAMA= problem is that benefits don't reward the nuclear family... they should.

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Crime is a Rational Choice

Crime is worth the risk.   CLARKE= weigh up the costs and benefits. By punishing harder fewer crimes will be committed. Prison shouldn't be nice.    Few deterrents exist.ASBOs are seen as badges of honour. CAMERON= abolishing ASBOs as they aren't taken seriously.    FELSON= informal guardians will be more effective than police. When you know you are being watched you are less likely to offend. 

ETZONI- changes to modern society have meant that decision making has been pushed further away from local communities. People have no interest in their community due to them seeing them selves as powerless and this reinforces acceptance that it isn't their job. Only by taking back control and engaging in direct action and providing support will social control be reconstituted.

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Lea and Young

3 related causes of crime:

1) relative deprivation: media tells us what we shouls have. Also by telling us what we should read reinforcing what we think we should have. We become selfish by stealing things for their own personal gain. If we are attached to society or other things then we are less likely to commit crime as they have more to lose. Most lack attachment to others so dont have as much to lose

2) subculture: a collective solution to allow opportunity structures and relative deprivation. PRYCE= hustlers- busy nightlife to them deviance is logical. saints- some turn to religion instead its respectable and helps the transition from cultures more easily.

3) marginalisation: the w.class youths are separated from the rest of society. They get status frustration (Cohen). They then become violent etc and riot to show anger against society.

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Example of Right Realism- Glasgow 2011

They have suffered with decades of gang violence. Stabbings and homocides are daily events. The police say its recreational violence.   Police have created a database to make it easier for criminals to be caught. They contacted all known gang members and asked them to attend to court hearing. Court was made very intimidating. Some actually attended 80% of those invited. They were told if they were caught again all their families and theirselves would be watched very carefully for a long time. They were also showed the pictures of those they had been violent to. They were given a card to help and support them. The shock may have frightened the victims so much that they stopped as cime rates did drop.

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Left Realism

Jock Young- He was interested in why people committed crime. As society changes, perspectives have also changed. Crime is real but reasons are needed and the root of the problem must be solved.    Victim surveys reveal the real picture and emphasizes the effect on the victim. They reveal the real number of crimes. They have revealed that x2  likely to be robbed than the rich. Communities steal from each others. It has also revealed that many are scared to go out after dark. The neighbourhood is needed to sort this out.

Marxism focusses too much on crimes of the powerful and they forget that the w.class also commit crimes. Neo- marxism- stealing is an act of resistance against capitalism but w.class can be victims too. Labelling theory- the media amplifies and exaggerates crime. The poor are labelled and statistics are a social construct.

E.g. New Labour= left realist appraoch. They protect the victims and prevent low level disorder. They tried to reverse the exclusion of young people at risk of offending. However, Young says that these policies often damaged the attempts to recreate the conditions of the Golden Age/ 1950's

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1950's/60's= 5% went to uni. A golden age. Nuclear family is popular and very low divorce rates. Close communities. Hirschi's Bonds of Attachments are a good example. Consensus about right or wrong. Low crime rates.

1970's/ 80's + = 50% go to uni. instability, diversity, choice etc. Possibility of anomie. Risk and negotiation. seek of perfection. Very high crime rates.

Why have these changes occured?= immigration, deindustrialisation, short term and low paid jobs, exclusion of certain groups, desperation.

EVAL= not enough money for this to happen howeverthe right wing say that you can't swamp areas with police for free. Victim surveys dont explain why. Still focusses on street crime.

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