Left Realist Theories of Crime and Deviance Flashcards Preview

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Left realism has developed from the 1980s. Like right realism, it sees crime as a real problem. However, while right realists are New Right conservatives, Left realists are socialists.
Left realism can also be compared with Marxism...

- Like Marxists, left realists are opposed to the inequality of capitalist society and see it as the root cause of crime
- Unlike Marxists, they are reformist not revolutionary socialists: they believe gradual reforms are the only realistic way to achieve equality.
- While Marxists believe only a future revolution can bring a crime free society, Left realists believe we need realistic solutions for reducing it now.


Left realism criticises other theories..

TRADITIONAL MARXISTS- for concentrating on crimes of the powerful but neglecting working class crime and its effects
NEO MARXISTS- for romanticising WC criminals, whereas in reality they mostly victimise other working class people.
LABELLING THEORISTS- for seeing criminals as the victims of labelling. Left realists argue that this neglects the real victims


Left realism believes taking crime seriously involves recognising that...

ITS MAIN VICTIMS ARE DISADVANTAGED GROUPS- such as the working class, ethnic minorities and women. They are more likely to be victimised and less likely to find the police take crimes against them seriously (e.g. racist attacks and domestic violence)
THERE HAS BEEN A REAL INCREASE IN CRIME- This has led to an aetiological crisis (crisis of explanation); e.g. labelling theory sees the rise as just a social construction, not a reality. LR's argue that the increase is too great to be explained in this way and is real.


Lea and Young identify three related causes of crime..

1. Relative deprivation
2. Subculture
3. Marginalisation


Relative deprivation

For LR, crime has its roots in relative deprivation- how deprived someone feels in relation to others. When they feel others unfairly have more, they may resort to crime to obtain what they feel entitled to:
There is a growing contrast between cultural inclusion and economic exclusion and this increases relative deprivation:
There is cultural inclusion: even the poor have access to the media's materialistic messages. But there is economic exclusion of the poor from opportunities to gain the 'glittering prizes'



For Left Realists, a subculture is a group's solution to the problem of relative deprivation
Some subcultural solutions do not lead to crime, e.g. some turn to religion to find comfort and this may encourage conformity
Criminal subcultures subscribe to society's materialistic goals, but legitimate opportunities are blocked , so they resort to crime.



Unlike groups such as workers, unemployed youth are marginalised. They have no organisation to represent them and no clear goals- just a sense of powerlessness, resentment and frustration, which they express through criminal means e.g. violence and rioting.


Late modernity and Crime

Young argues that in Late modern society (since the 1970s) the problem of WC crime is worse due to:
- Harsher welfare policies, increased unemployment, job insecurity and poverty.
- Destabilisation of family and community life, weakening informal social controls.


Young notes other changes in late modern society

- Crime is now found throughout society, not just at the bottom. There is resentment at the undeservedly high rewards e.g. footballers or bankers.
- There is now 'relative deprivation downwards' e.g. resentment against the unemployed as spongers; more hate crimes e.g. against asylum seekers.
- There is less consensus about what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, and informal controls are now less effective as families and communities disintegrate.
- The public are less tolerant and demand harsher formal controls by the state. Late modern society is a high crime society with a low tolerance for crime.


Left realists argue the solution to crime involves two policies: democratic policing and reducing social inequality

Kinsley, Lea and Young argue that police rely on the public for information, but they are losing public support, so the flow of information dries up and they must rely instead on military policing, such as 'swamping' an area. To win public support, the police must become more accountable to local communities by involving them in deciding policing policies and priorities. Crime control must also involve a multi-agency approach, not just the police.



For left realists, the main solution to crime is to remove its underlying cause: social inequality
They call for major structural changes to tackle discrimination, inequality of opportunity and unfairness of rewards, and provide decent jobs and housing for all.


Evaluation of left realism- strengths

Left realism has drawn attention to the reality of street crime and its effects, especially on victims from deprived groups.


Evaluation of left realism- weaknesses

It accepts the authorities definition of crime as being the street crimes of the poor and ignores the harms done to the poor by the powerful. Marxists argue that it fails to explain corporate crime. It over predicts the amount of working class crime: not everyone who experiences relative deprivation and marginalisation turns to crime. Understanding offenders' motives requires qualitative data, but left realists relies on quantitative data from victim surveys
Focussing on high crime inner city areas makes crime appear a greater problem than it is.