Sees crime, especially street crime, as a growing problem.
Believe other theories have failed to solve the problem of crime.
They regard labelling theorists & critical criminology as too
sympathetic to the criminal & hostile to the police & courts.
Mainly concerned w/ practical solutions to reduce crime. In
their view, the best way to do so is through control &
punishment, rather than by rehabilitating offenders or
tackling causes such as poverty.
CAUSES OF CRIME
RIGHT REALISTS reject the idea that
structural or economic factors such as
poverty are the cause of crime; e.g.
they point out that the old tend to be
poor yet have a very low crime yet.
For RIGHT REALISTS, crime is the product of 3
According to WILSON & HERRNSTEIN, crime is caused
by a combination of biological & social factors.
Biological differences between individuals make
some people innately predisposed to commit
crime, due to personality traits such as
aggressiveness, risk taking or low intelligence,
which RIGHT REALISTS see as biologically
decreases the risk of
offending by teaching
self-control & correct values.
RIGHT REALISTS see the
nuclear family as the best
agency of socialisation.
However, according to MURRAY, the nuclear family is
being undermined by the welfare state, which is
creating welfare dependency & encouraging the
growth of an underclass who fail to socialise their
Generous welfare provision has led to the growth of
benefit-dependent lone parent families, since men
no longer need to take responsibility for supporting
Absent fathers mean that boys
lack discipline & an appropriate
role model, so they turn to
delinquent role models in street
gangs & gain status through
crime rather than through
supporting their families.
RATIONAL CHOICE THEORY
CLARKE'S rational choice theory assumes
individuals are rational beings w/ free will.
Deciding to commit crime
is a choice based on a
rational calculation of the
If the rewards of crime appear to outweigh the costs, then
people will be more likely to offend. RIGHT REALISTS
argues that the crime rate is high because the perceived
costs are low; e.g. little risk of being caught & lenient
FELSON'S routine activity theory argues that for crime to occur, there must be:
A motivated offender, a suitable target (victim or
property) & 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
RIGHT REALISTS believe it is pointless trying to tackle to underlying
causes of crime (biological & socialisation differences) since these are hard
to change. Instead, they focus on the control & punishment of offenders.
WILSON & KELLING argue that we must keep
neighbourhoods orderly to prevent crime taking hold.
Any sign of deterioration, e.g. graffiti, must be dealt w/
Advocate a 'zero tolerance' policy. The police should focus on controlling the
streets so law-abiding citizens feel safe.
Crime prevention policies
should reduce the rewards
of crime & increase its
costs, e.g. 'target
hardening', more use of
CRITICISMS OF RIGHT REALISM
Ignores structural causes of crime, e.g. poverty.
It is concerned almost solely w/ street
crime, ignoring corporate crime, which is
more costly & harmful to the public.
It over-emphasises control of
disorderly neighbourhoods, ignoring
underlying causes of neighbourhood
How can criminals be both rational
actors freely choosing crime, while
simultaneously their behaviour is
determined by their biology &
CAUSES OF CRIME
LEA & YOUNG identify 3 related causes of crime.
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 & economic
exclusion & this
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
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 & may encourage
subscribe to society's
materialistic goals, but
blocked, so they resort
Unlike groups such as workers,
unemployed youth are marginalised. They
have no organisation to represent them &
no clear goals - just a sense of
powerlessness, resentment & frustration,
which they express through criminal
means, e.g. violence & rioting.
LATE MODERNITY & CRIME
YOUNG argues that in late modern society, the problem of working-class crime is worse due to:
Destabilisation of family & community life, weakening informal social controls.
YOUNG notes other changes in late modernity:
Crime is now found throughout society, not just at
the bottom. There is resentment at the
undeservedly high rewards, e.g. of footballers or
There is now 'relative derivation
downwards'; e.g. resentment
against the unemployed
spongers; more 'hate crimes' e.g.
against asylum seekers.
There is less consensus about what is
acceptable & unacceptable
behaviour, & informal controls are
now less effective as families &
The public is less tolerant & demand harsher formal
control by the state. Late modern society is a
high-crime society w/ a low tolerance for crime.
SOLUTIONS TO CRIME
KINSEY, LEA & YOUNG argue that police rely on the public for information, but
they are losing public support, so the flow of information dries up & 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 & priorities.
Crime control must also
involve a multi-agency
approach (e.g. social services,
schools), not just the police.
For LEFT REALISTS, the main
solution to crime is to remove it's
underlying cause: social
They call for major structural changes to tackle
discrimination, inequality of opportunity &
unfairness of rewards, & provide decent jobs &
housing for all.
CRITICISMS OF LEFT REALISM
Accepts the authorities' definition of crime as
being the street crimes of the poor & ignores
the harms done to the poor by the powerful.
MARXISTS argue that it fails to explain
turns to crime.
motives requires qualitative
data, but LEFT REALISM
relies on quantitative data
from victim surveys.
Focusing on high-crime inner-city areas makes crime appear a greater problem than it is.
MARXISTS argue that LEFT REALISTS are naive to assume that
the police can be made accountable since they are a key part of
the repressive state apparatus protecting capitalist interests.