Realist theories - crime and deviance

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  • Created by: maxward
  • Created on: 11-04-16 11:56

Realist theories differ from labelling theory and critical crimonology, who see crime a socially constructed, rather than a real fact. Realists see crime as a real problem, especially for its victims, and they propose policies to reduce crime. 

Right realists share a conservative, New Right political outlook and support a 'zero tolerance' stance on crime.  They have been very influential in the UK and USA. 

Left realists are reformist socialists and favour policies to promote equality. 

Ricght Realism

RR sees crime, especially street crime, as a growing problem. 

Attitude to other theories RRs believe other theories have failed to solve the problem of crime. They regard labelling theory and critical criminology as too sympathetic to the criminal and hostile to the police and courts. 

Practical solutions In their view, the best way to do so is through control and punishment, rather than by rehabilitating offenders or tackling causes such as poverty. 

The causes of crime

- RRs reject the idea that structural or economic factors such as poverty are the cause of crime.

- For RRs, crime is the product of three factors: biological differences, inadequate socialisation and the underclass, and rational choice to offend.

1. Biological differences 

Biological differences between individuals make some people innately predisposed to commit crime, due to personality traits such as agressiveness, risk taking or low intelligence, which RRs see as biologically determined. 

2. The underclass 

Effective socialisation decreases the risk of offending by teaching self-control and correct values. RRs see the nuclear family as the best agency of socialisation. 

- Generous welfare provision has led to the growth of benefit-dependent lone parent families, since men no longer need to take responsibility for supporting their families. 

- Absent fathers mean that boys lack discipline and an appropriate role model, so they turn to delinquent role models in street gangs and gain status through crime rather than through supporting their families. 

3. Rational choice theory 

Clarkes (1980) rationa choice theory assumes individuals are rational beings with free will.

- deciding to commit crime is a choice based on rational calculation of the consequences.

- If the rewards of crime appear to outweigh the costs, then people will be more likely to offend. 

Felsons (1998) routine activity theory argus that for crime to occur, there must be: 

- A motivated offender, a suitable target (victim of property) and the absence of a 'capable' guardian' (e.g. policeman or neighbour). 

- Offenders act rationally, so the presence of a guardian is likely to deter them. 

Solutions to crime

RRs belive it is pointless trying to tackle the underlying caues of crime since these are hard to change. Instead, they focus on the control and punishment of offenders:

- Wilson and Kelling (1982) argue that we must keep neighbourhoods orderly to prevent crime taking hold. Any sign of deterioration, e.g. graffti, must be dealt with immediately. 

- They advocate 'zero tolerance' policing. The police should focus on controlling the streets so law-abiding citizens feel safe. 

- Crime prevention…


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