Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the value of the right realist approach to crime and deviance. Realist approaches to crime are alternatives to the Marxist and Interactionist approaches, which in realists eyes both seemed to be unable to generate ideas that could lead to reducing levels of crime. Marxists tended to see property crime as a justified attempt to redistribute wealth, whereas Interactionists saw criminals as different from non-criminals only in that they had acquired the label ‘criminal.
’ Realists tried to counter these tendencies by focusing on the reality of crime, its consequences on the victims and the need to do something about it.
Realist approaches to the study of crime emerged in the 1980s as a response to what Rock called a “theory bottleneck.” Two versions of realist theory have been developed, left and right realism. Both reflect different political perspectives, with right realism going together with Conservative views and particularly those of the New Right. It is important how realist theories and right realism emerged in the 1980s as this is when the ‘New Right’ really came to prominence with Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government.
They believed in privatisation and weren’t fans of the welfare state, which is also one of the reasons right realists use as the cause of crime. The Sociologist Charles Murray had the theory that there was an “underclass”, a significant group at the bottom of society who were too dependent on the welfare state. Murray blames the welfare state as being one of the causes of crime because it creates a dependency culture, and people prefer to ‘scrounge’ off the state rather than get a job.
Therefore they have a lot more time to commit crime, as well as the idea that the “underclass” will develop certain values that may cause them to want to commit crime. Murray further argued that the underclass was comprised of “fatherless families”, with boys growing up without suitable male role models and passing on anti-social behaviour to future generations, which is seen as responsible for a lot of crime. As shown in Item A, 70% of young offenders come from lone parent families. However despite these cultural factors, right realists believe there is nothing inevitable about a person turning to crime; it is always a matter of choice. Sociologists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling came up with a further theory of the causes of crime, named the “broken windows theory.”
They argued that if one broken window is left unrepaired; the rest will soon be broken, and that this was true in nice neighbourhoods as well as run-down ones. They argued that window-breaking does not necessarily occur on a large scale because some areas are inhabited by people likely to break windows, but rather that one unrepaired broken window signals that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing. Therefore, on a larger scale, vandalism could lead to a climate of disorder in which ever more serious crime becomes possible. As a solution to this, Wilson agreed with zero tolerance as a policing strategy that involves cracking down on minor infringements to try to create a situation in which crime is less possible.
Furthermore, Wilson believed that the root causes of crime cannot be identified; therefore they cannot be measured in a scientific way. He believed that if such causes cannot be identified, then crime will never be eliminated, therefore the only thing to do is to reduce its impact. Right realists believe that crime can be reduced by making it a less attractive choice. As stated in Item A, the solution is to “increase the costs of crime and reduce its rewards.” They believe that if the potential criminal feels that the likelihood of getting caught and punished is greater than the benefit, then the crime will not take place. Therefore, the role of the police is to maintain social order rather than law enforcement – they are seen to be proactive.
They must make their presence known and seen and keep in contact with the locals to prevent crime, and they must also keep the streets clean of potential criminals for example youths, prostitutes and beggars. Other solutions to crime suggested by right realists is initiatives like target hardening, for example making a house or car more difficult to break into, and surveillance and Neighbourhood Watch schemes. Left realists and liberals criticise right realist theories as justifying inequality and criminalising the poor, as they fail to recognise that greed is the product of a capitalist society and not an inevitable part of human nature.
They feel that if a society puts stress on financial success it is not surprising that some will be prepared to break the law to achieve it. Right realism also fails to explain corporate or ‘white collar’ crime, and only really focuses on crime committed by the poor or the ‘underclass’. Left realists would argue that crime cannot be attributed to things like the welfare state if so much white collar crime is committed particularly by big corporate businesses. Left realists certainly provide an alternative to right realism, and they take the viewpoint that those who commit or experience crime are the best people to tell us more about the nature of crime rather than a structural/societal explanation.
Therefore they believe that policies related to crime are useless – it is the public, the victims and the criminals, who need to help the Government to find out what is needed to be put in place to prevent crime. They also argue against right realism and say that crime is inevitable, and those who are working class, unemployed or poor are disadvantaged, and are likely to commit crime because of this disadvantage. Despite crime being down by 38% since 2002 in the UK, it is still at a high level. Between January and December 2012, 3,700,349 crimes were recorded by the police. There are many solutions and theories put forward for the explanations of crime and what we need to do to prevent it.
Right realists take a harsh view on crime – they don’t believe we can really see the root causes of crime, therefore we can’t prevent it. However they do believe we can lower the rate of crime, through harsh initiatives such as high surveillance and target hardening. These initiatives may prove to be successful and with a Conservative party currently in the majority in Parliament, and as part of the Coalition government, they may be the sort of initiatives they use to prevent crime. However, the left will always be there to criticise the right’s theories, and the Labour party remain a looming presence over the Conservatives.
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TOPICS IN THIS DOCUMENT
Conservatism, Conservative Party, Crime, Criminology, Fixing Broken Windows, New Right, Rea
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