Realist Theories

Realism - left and right

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  • Created by: Sarah
  • Created on: 02-06-11 18:16

Right Realism and Crime

  • Sees crime, especially street crime as a real and growing problem that destroys communities and undermines social cohesion.
  • Right realist approach has been influential in UK and USA and therefore has policies of 'zero tolerance' of street crime and disorder.
  •  Looks for control measures rather than tackling the causes of crime
  • Although their main emphasis is on practical crime reduction strategies, they offer an threeexplanation of the causes of crime:
  • Biological differences: Personality traits such as aggressiveness, risk taking put some people at greater risk of offending. Herrnstein and Murray argue that main cause of crime is low intelligence which they believe is biologically determined.
  • Socialisation and the underclass: Effective socialisation decreases the risk, therefore they believe that because of a new growth of the underclass who fail to socialise their children properly, there is an increase in crim rate. Murrays welfare state's 'generous revolution' where the state allows more of the underclass become dependant on the state, therefore there has been a decline of marriage and a growth of lone-parent familes. Therefore, there is not effective socialisation in lone-parent families, especially in lone mothers where the absent of the father means that boys lack male role model, therefore models on the street. 
  • Rational Choice Theory: Right realists assume that individuals have free will. Therefore their decision of crime is a choice based on the likley consequences. If the percieved rewards outweigh the costs, they more likely to offend.
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Tackling Crime: Right Realists

  • Right realists do not believe it is right to try and deal with the causes of crime since these cannot easily be changed.
  • Their main focus is on control, containment and punishment of offenders rather than eliminating the underlying causes.
  • They advocate a 'zero tolerance' policy towards undesirable behaviour such as drunkenness.
  • The role of the police should be to focus on controlling the streets so that people are kept safe.
  • Crime prevention policies should reduce the rewards and increase the costs of crime to the offender . For example: Target harderning, greater use of prison and punishments follow soon after the offence.
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Criticism of Right Realists View on Crime

  • Right realism ignores wider structural causes such as poverty
  • It overstates offenders' rationality and how far they make cost benefit calculating crime. It may explain some utilitarian crime but not much violent crime.
  • It ignores coporate crime which may be more costly to the public
  • Advocating a zero-tolerance policy gives police free rein the discriminate against ethnic minority youth, the homeless.
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Left Realism

  • Left Realism believe in gradual change.
  • They believe that they need to develop explanations of crime that will lead to practical strategies for reducing it. 
  • The central idea behind left realism is that crime is a real problem which particularly affects the disadvantaged who are its main victims. They accuse sociologists of not taking it seriously, such as Marxists for concentrating on crimes of the powerful such as corporate crime, Neo-Marxists who think working class steal from the rich as resistance to capitalism and Labelling Theorists who see working class individuals as criminals.
  • They take crime very seriously, using victim surveys which show the scale of the problem. 
  • Lea and Young identify 3 causes of crime:
  • Relative deprivation: This refers to how deprived someone feels in relations to others or compared with their own expectations. This therefore may lead to crime. More aware of relative deprivation due to media and advertising which raises everyones expectations for material possessions.
  • Subculture: Merton believes that if a subcultures goals are blocked, they will turn to crime. This is seen in American Dream.
  • Marginalisation: Marganilised groups lack both clear goals and organisation to represent their interests. Groups such as workers have clear goals, however unemployed youth are maraganilised, they have no clear goals, therefore becoming frustrated which leads to violence.
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Late Modernity: Left Realist.

  • Young argues that we are living in late-modern society, where instability, insecurity and exclusion make the problem of crime worse.
  • Where de-industrialisation and the loss of unskilled manual jobs have increased unemployment and poverty for young people and ethnic minorities, whcih leads to crime rates rising.
  • There is a stress on personal consumption and immediate gratification which leads to higher expectations for the good life.
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Tackling Crime: Left Realists

  • Policing and control: Lea and Young argue that police clear up rates are too low to act as a deterrant to crime and that police spend too little time actually investigating crime. They argue that the public must become more involved in determining the police's priorites and style of policing,
  • The police depend on the public to provide them with information about crime. However, the police are losing support, especially in the inner cities.
  • Therefore, they are using stop and search tactics, which alienates communities who see the police as victimising local youth.
  • Tackling the structural causes is their best way of tackling crime. They believe if they deal with inequality of opportunity, tackle discrimination and provide decent jobs for everyone. There may be less crime.
  • Left realists have more influence on government policy than most theoris: Firmer policing on domestic violence, sexual assaults and the introduction of ASBO'S are left realists concerns to protect vulnerable groups.
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Evaluation of Left Realists

  • Left Realism has succeeded in drawing attention to the reality of street crime and it's effects, especially on victims.
  • Interactionists argue that because left realises rely on quantitative data from victim surveys, they cannot explain offenders' motives. Instead , we need qualitative data to reveal their meanings.
  • Relative deprivation cannot fully explain crime because not all those who experience it commit crime. The theory over-predicts.
  • It focuses on high-crime inner-city areas which gives an unrepresentative view and makes crime appear a greater problem than it is.
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Comparing Both Left and Right Realism.

  • Both left and right realism see crime as a real problem and fear of crime as rational.

  • Right realists are neo-conservative,
  •  Left realists are reformist socialists - this is reflected in how they explain crime.

  • Right realists blame individual lack of self-control.
  • Left Realists blame structural inequality and relative deprivation.

  • Right Realists prioritise social order, achieved through a tought stance against offenders.
  • Left Realists prioritise justic achieved through democratic policing and reforms to greater equality.
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