Crime and Deviance - Assess the view that realist approaches offer an adequate solution to the problem of crime (21 marks)

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Gareth Collins

Crime and Deviance; Topical questions.

Read item A and the question that follows

Item A Realists regard crime, and especially street crime, as a real and growing problem, and one that has been largely ignored by other theories. However, left and right realists offer very different solutions to this problem, reflecting political differences between them as well as differences in what they see as the cause of crime. For right realists, crime is a rational choice, made by individuals that can only be controlled by tough law-and-order policies. For left realists, crime results from relative deprivation and tackling it involves reducing social inequality. 

Question Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the view that realist approaches offer an adequate solution to the problem of crime. 

The Right Realist approach to crime focuses on crime representing a real problem, and as such criticises other theories which they say cares more for the criminal than the victim, and ignores the affects on the victim. As such Right Realists focus on the actions of the crime itself and responses to actively reduce it. They want practical solutions in order to benefit the real victims of crime. 

The first perspective they have on crime is that criminal behaviour is somehow genetically inherent in some people. That they are biologically predisposed to commit crime. This can be because of a number of individual reasons, but popular assumptions include criminals having lower intelligence levels, increased aggression and being happier to take risks than regular people. This is criticised however in that in the study conducted by Lilly et al, only 3% of criminals were found to have a reduced intelligence measurement. 

Charles Murray’s work offers a different explanation, with his insight into the Underclass, and the view that lone-parent, often female parented families that have failed to actively and successfully socialise their children into accepting mainstream norms and values actually have less respect for the property of others. Because Murray believes this primary socialisation in the family has been damaged, he believes that common decency is threatened and that criminality and deviancy is a by-product of that breakdown in socialisation. So a lack of respect for property is perhaps an explanation for utilitarian crime, but there is an explanation for crimes of violence also, with absent fathers causing a breakdown further in socialisation, boys perhaps find male role-models in gangs which based on Cloward and Ohlin’s subcultural theory suggests a conflict-subculture, focused on conflict and violence for control of a territory. 

The final explanation offered by Right Realists in terms of the nature of crime and deviance is the idea of the Rational Choice theory - in which, criminals are intelligent enough to weigh up gain vs. loss and cost vs. reward in order to make a rational decision using their free will to commit a criminal act of any kind. This is criticised in that it assumes a criminal to be more intelligent than first thought - so the theorists have contradicted…

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