Crime and Deviance:Topic 6A

Left realist explanations of crime

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  • Created on: 09-05-15 13:50

The idea of realism

The idea of realism

  • During the 1980's Marxists and Interactionalsit aproaches were criticised for ignoring the fact that crime was acually a problem for many people and that crime rates were increasing. Marxism only focused on the way the working class were scapegoated and corporate crime and labelling theory on how certain groups were labelled. What about the effects of crime and fear of crime on victims? Where were any practical suggestions for reducing crime and dealing with those who break the law?
  • These criticisms lead to the development of 2 aproaches which took the issue of cime and its effects seriously. The relaists. left realist- influenced by radical socialist ideas and right realists- more influenced by right wing conservative thinking. Bothe have become very influential in developing explanations or and solutins to the problems created by Crime and Deviance.
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Introduction to left realsits

  • Left realists differ from marxsits in that they do use official stat to shape their responces to crime, while they reject the idea that they are entirely accurate they do take seriously the patterns and trends they provide.
  • also interested in shaping policies to tackle nd solve crime problems and therefor they aim for politicians ad goverments to adopt their proposals.
  • Differ from traditional marxists in their focus on the impact of crimes on individual victims and communities and accuse marxists of over focussingon offenders and explaining away the impact of their anti social and damaging behaviour.
  • However in line with many left wing aproaches they root their crime prevention strategies in broad social policy, designed to challenge th problems of deprivtion and marginalisation which htey identify as critical causes of crime
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Key study:Jock young relative deprivation, subcult

  • Young became disenfranchised with the marxist aproach which he sees as stressing that criminals should be seen as the victims of the capitalist system and that sociological analysis of crime should stress the criminality of the rich and powerful. This disillusionment was generated by a series of victim surveys which showed that the real victims of crime were the poor and powerless and that these people veiwed street crime and burglary as one of the main social problems they faced.
  • he argued that it was the role of criminology to provide relavent and credible solutions for policy makers to limit the harm that crime was doing to the lives of the poorer sections of the community. Many accused him of selling out however he marked marxist ideology as "left idealsim" meaning it was great in theory but had no practical solutions.

Left realism has 3 key concepts

  • Relative deprivation
  • Subculture
  • Marginalisation
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Relative Deprivation

  • The concept began with the writings of Runciman- who argued that political revolutions only occured when the poor became aware of the sheer scale of the differences between themselves and the rich. Without this knowledge they generally accepted their povery and powerllessness therefor its not povery which leads to revolution but awareness of their relative poverty.

Lea and Young applied this concept to crime- they pointed out that its not povertty or unemployment which directly causes crime as despite the high unemployment experienced in the economic depression in Britian from the late 1920's and 1930's crime rates were considerably lower than they were in the boom rates of the 80's this is because the expectations of the 1930's youth were much lower than those of contemporary young people who felt resentful at what they could actually earn compared to their expectations.

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Marginalisation refers to the situation where certain groups in the population are more likely than others to suffer economic, social and political deprevation. The first two of these ellements of deprivtion are fairly well known- young people living in inner cities and social housing estates are more likely to suffer from levels of deprivation than those from more affluent areas. The third ellement political marginalisation- refers to the fct that there is no way for them to influence decision makers and thus feel powerless

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  • Draws partially on the marxist subcultural aproach and heavily on the ideas of Merton.
  • Subcultures develop amongst groups who suffer from marginalisation and relative deprivation. Spesific sets of values, types of dress and modes of behaviour develope which reflect the problems that their members face.However whereas the marxist subcultural writers seek to explain the styles of dress and forms of language and behaviour as a "resistence to capetalism" Lea and Young don't see a direct "decodable link". For them one crucial ellement of subcultures is that they are still located in the values of wider society. Subcultures develop precisely becuse their members subscribe to the dominant values of society but are blocked off (through marginalisation) from success.
  • The outcome fo subculture, marginalisation and relative deprivation is street crime and burglary commited largely by young males.
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Evaluation of Lea and Young

  • Hughes- argues that it fails to expain the real causes of street crime. Left realsits havent gathereed enough empirical data about the offenders motives, he also attacks left realsim for its reliance on subcultural theory which has been heavily criticised.
  • However he points out the strengths of left realism arguing it has revvived useful concepts such as relative deprivation and highlighte the problem of stret crime poses for weaker members of society. He feels it also avoids the worst exesses of both right and left wing aproaches by neither attacking nor glorifying hte police.
  • Jones- argue that left realism fails to experience why some people who experience relative deprivation turn to crime while others don't. He also identifies flaws in the emphasis on victims. They take account of victims fear of crime at face value and never ask their veiws about the causes of crime. They also ony take into account the veiws of victims in urban areas where crime rates are high thus giving a misleading impression of how harmful crime is.
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Millitry style policing

In "loosing the fight against crime" Young, Kinsley, and Lea put forward a variety of suggestions about ways of changing policing

  • Beacuse of the polices heavy handed aproach local communities won't give them information. Lacking the information neccacary to solve crime the police resort to new policing methods drifitng towards "milatary style policing". Without the support of the community the police hve to resort to tactics such as stop and search and using survelence techology to find suspects.This leads to mobolization fo bystanders where local people gather in groups to support those members of the community that they feel have been unfairly picked on. This can lead to major social discturbances.
  • They argue tha the key to improving policing is improving community relations so that the flow of the information on which the police rely increases. to acheive this they should uses minimal policing. They argue the community should establish priorities for the police have also identified areas they beleive are over policed such as minor drug offences. They beleive that the police and the state devote too much time and energy to dealing with certain type of crime and not enough to others. this aproach leads to distorted statistics of the nature of crime.
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Military style policing 2

  • Also stress the need for police reform.
  • Kinsely- argues that improved police performance wil only happen if the relationships with the community they serve improve. He argues that only with effective police community relationshops do the police obtain a flow of information upon which they crack down on crime.
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Milatary style policing: Evaluation

  • Not surprising theres a lot of policing in inner city areas as these are the places where there is the most violent crime, fear of crim and social dissorder. The police are protecting the public and responding to public concerns.
  • The police have worked hard at improving their aproach to policing inner city areas especially after the mc phereson report. More ethnic minorty policemen have been recruited.
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Individuaslim, social exclusion and late modernity

  • Young argues we are living in a state of late modernity where instability, insecurity and exclusion make the probem of crime worse. He contrasts todays society with the period proceeding it arguing that the 50's were the golden age of modern capetalism. Wellfair state, low divorce rates and relatively strong communities. There was general consensus about right and wrong and lower crime rates.
  • Since the 70's instability, insecurity and exclusion have increased. Deindustrialisation and the loss of unskilled manual jobs have increaed unemployment and poverty especially for the young and ethnic minoritories while many jobs are now insecure and low paid. These changes have deestabilshed family and community life and contributed to rising divorce rates as new right goverment policies designed to hold back wellfair spending on the poor. All this has contributed to increased marginalisation and exclusion of those at the bottom. Meanwhile greater inequality between the rich and the poor and the spread of free market values encouraged individualsim has increased the sense of reltive deprivation. Young notes the growing contrst between cultural inclusion and economic exclusion as a source of relative deprivation. Media saturated late modern society promotes cultural inclusion; even the poor have access to the medias materialistic, consumericsic cultural mesages.
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Individualism, social exculsion and late modernity

Theres greater emphasis on leisure which stresses personal consumption and immedate gratification and leads to higher expectations of 'the good life'. At the same time despite the ideology of meritocracy the poor are systematically excluded from opportunities to gain the glittering prizes of wealthy society. Young's contrasts between cultural inclusion and economic exclusion is similar to Mertons theory of Anomie- that society creates crime by setting cultural goals such as material ealth while denying people the opportunity to acheive them by legitimate means such as decent jobs.

A futher trend in late modernity is for reltive deprivation to become generalised throughout society rather than being confined to those at the bottom. Theres a widespread resentment at the undeservedly high rewards some (i.e banker) receive and also relative deprivation downwards where the mc who have to be working and dicilpined to succeed in an increasingly competative work enviroment resent the steryotypical undercla as idle, irresponsable and hedonistic, living of undeserved state handouts.

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individualsim, social exclusion and late modernity

The result of the trend towards exclusion is that the amounts and types of crime are changing in late modern society.

  • 1. Firstly crime is more widespread and found increasingly throughout the social structure not just at the bottom of it. Its also nastier with increae in hate crimes often the result of deprivation downwards ie attacks against asylum seekers.
  • 2. Reactions to crime by the public and state are changing. With late modernity society becomes more diverse and theres less public consenses on right and wrong so tha tthe boundry between acceptable and unaceptable behaviour becomes blured. At the same time informal controls have become ess effective as families and communities disintergrate. This along with rising crime makes the public more intollerant and leads to demands for harsher formal controls by the state and increaded criminalisation of unnaceptable behaviour. Late modern society is this a high crime society with  low tollerance of crime.
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  • despite youngs preditctions the crime rate is falling acording to both official stats and the csew
  • divorce rates are decreasing suggeting there may have been something or a reduction in social breakdown

Evlauation of Left realism generally

  • Ruggiero- argues left relaists have neglected corporate crime and organsied crime and this type of crime can't easily be understood within the framework of their theory.
  • SIm (marxist)- not realsitic, ignores the ral reasons of crime rooted in the wider capitalst system
  • Carlen (fem)- argues that left realsits accept the establishments veiws of wat crime is and so concentrates its attention on issues to do with street crime and burglary. Argues that left relasits fial to explore hte ways crime harms women ie they should put greater stress on domestic violence.
  • In reply young claimed left realsim has been very concerend with domestic violence and sees it as one of the main problems left realist smust adress.
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