Realist Theories of Crime/ 1.4 Crime


Left Realism

  • Left realists criticise Marxists for suggesting that the only way to tackle crime is to abolish capitalism
  • Left realists believe that crime can only be tackled by reforming capitalism rather than replacing it
  • Left realists criticise Marxists for their neglect of street crime and too much emphasis on corporate crime
  • Left realism concentrates on filling this gap in left-wing criminology rather than investigating the crimes of the powerful
  • John Lea and Jock Young (1983) pointed out that most victims of street crime were not the rich but the poor. They argued that for this reason, it was very misleading to portray modern-day criminals as being akin to Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give to the poor (this position was taken by neo-Marxists in the New Criminology)
  • Left realists make extensive use of local victim surveys to find out in detail how crime affects the lives of those who live and work in high crime areas
  • Left realists argue that some crimes have too much attention and resources devoted to them. These include offences such as soliciting by prostitutes, underage drinking
  • However, these crimes do more harm to the offenders than to third parties and can often be dealt with education and medicine
  • Some sociologists have been rather dismissive of the view that there has been a rise in street crime since WW2. They point out that the official crime statistics are invalid because they are socially constructed.
  • Young (1993) claim that these rises in crime have been so great that they cannot simply be explained away by changes in reporting and recording. Left realists claim that there must have been at least some rise and they take the view that this rise needs explaining

The explanation of crime by Left Realists

  • Lea and Young try to explain crime around three key concepts
    -relative deprivation
  • Relative deprivation - in modern societies advertisers stress the importance of economic success and promote middle-class lifestyles and patterns of consumption
  • Lea and Young argue that rising crime is partly the result of a rise in people's expectations with regard to what they think they  are entitled to consume combined with the fact that some social groups simply do not have the economic resources to achieve these expectations
  • Young (1999) argues that increased inequality and increased emphasis on material success has made these problems worse. The feelings of relative deprivation that emerge from this situation are made worse because of the proximity of different social groups
  • Subculture - some groups may develop subcultural strategies and lifestyles in order to cope with the problem of relative deprivation.
  • Young (1999) argues that there is less consensus about moral values than in the past because there is now an increasing variety of subcultures claiming that their values are legitimate which tends to increase conflict and rising crime
  • Marginalisation - marginal groups generally lack the organisation to represent their interests in political life  and consequently, their concerns are not generally taken seriously
  •  For example…


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