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Explanations of crime deviance Essay

The right realist perspective on crime is mainly associated with the American sociologist W.J Wilson. This perspective became very influential on home office policy-making during the conservatives period in office.

The right realist approach assumes that human beings are naturally selfish, individualistic and greedy. Therefore ther are ‘naturally inclined’ to further their interest, even if this means comitting crime. They also believe the origins of crime are misunderstood, that is policies aimed at tackling crime by removing social and economic inequalities. Wilson noted that the Great Depression in the USA did not result in a rise in crime. Another right realist explanation is that the welfare state has undermined our sense of obligation to support each other, andthat community controls, i.e. informal controls imposed by neighbours, family and peer groups are breaking down.

Right realists stress that attempts to explain the causes of crime should be abandoned and that sociologists should instead focus on finding practical solutions to slow the growth of crime. This developed the control theory.

Hirschi argues that crime is opportunistic and anyone would commit crime if the situation was right and there was little chance of being caught. He says that sociologists should not focus on whypeople commit crime but why more people do not. He maintains that most people are rational in their choices and that there are controls that operate to make most people keep their actions within the bounds of the law. They are, Attachment- commitment to family relationships which could be threatened by criminal acts, Commitment- years of education, building a career, buying a home and aquiring a good reputation, all this could be lost by commiting crime, Involvement- some people are activley involved in community life as volunteers, parentgovernors for schools etc. all this would be jepordized by criminal behaviour.

Right realists believe the way to control crime is to take practical measures to make sure the cost of crime outweighs the benefits.

Left realists such as Lea and Young attempt to explain street crime in urban areas. Theirvictim survey of inner-city Islington showed that working class, black peopleand especially elderly women, had a realistic fear of street crime. Lea and Young argue that despite evidence of police racism, criminal statistics are largely correct as working classes and Afro-Caribbean’s do commit the most crime.

They agreed thatwhite-collar and crimes go largely undetected and under punished, they do not point out however that they do not have the same negative impact on society as crimes such as mugging or burglary.Lea and Young maintain the reason why working class and Afro-Caribbean people commit crime is to do with feelings of ‘relative deprivation,’ such as comparing themselves to middle class or white youth with regard to life chances, living standards and income. Such groups feel frustrated with their lack of power. Negative treatment by the police and authorities leave groups feeling hostile and resentful, consequnently they are marginalized. Some mayform subcultures to help copewith the statusfrustration and marginalization.

Hughes notes that left realists should be valued for the challenge they posed to radical criminology’s thinking on the issues of intra-class and intra-ethnic crimes.

Left realism has drawn attention to the brutalising effects of street crimes in the inner-city and the fact that some theories of crime have romanticised offenders, it has highlighted the effects of crime for victims, a group neglected by most theories of crime. It realistically acknowledges that the police amplify the presence of some groups in the criminal statistics through the use of stop and search, but points out that policing is quite rightly focusing on those groups most likley to commit crime. There is no emperical evidence to support the view that young working class or black criminals interpret their realities in the way described by Lea and Young.

Research on the motives of offenders is required. Lea and Young do not really explain why the majority of working class and Afro-Caribbean youth do not turn to crime. Left realism only focuses on collective or subcultural criminal responses and does not explain crimes such as burglary, which are commited by individuals rather than gangs. It focuses exclusivley on street crime and ignores other serious crimes such as fraud and it fails to account for oppurtunistic crime commited by adults.


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