Mark my essay on Right Realists explanations of crime and deviance? (OCR G673) Watch
Crime can be defined as an act or behaviour which breaks laws and is punished by the legal system, whereas deviance can be defined as non-conformity to a given set of norms that are accepted by a majority in a community or society. In general, Realist theories as a whole are based on assumptions. The key difference between Left and Right Realism is that Left Realists claim crime is a harsh reality for many working class people, while Right Realists focus on inadequate social control which they partly blame individuals for and society at large. Right Realists would argue that due to the trend of individualism, people have too much choice and independence results in weakened social bonds and relationships which leads to a widespread fear of crime.
Generally, Right Realists argue that humans are naturally selfish and naturally inclined to commit crime. Wilson and Hernstein (1985) claim that individuals have a biological disposition to crime, but through the correct socialisation, inclination to criminality can be prevented. Parents who are uneducated or not well educated are more likely to be discordant and may not have the capacity to socialise their children correctly. Furthermore, Wilson and Hernstein argue that single parent families (i.e. types of families headed by a lone mother or lone father) are more likely to have criminal children. This is because their socialisation hasn’t been completed.
However, the notion that criminals are biologically different is rejected by many as these theories have previously been discredited. According to Left Realists, the explanation of crime is rooted in one’s social conditions (in economic, social and cultural deprivation). Lea and Young (1993) dismiss crime as a real social problem and suggest crime can be explained through three concepts: marginalisation, relative deprivation and criminal subcultures. Marginalisation is defined by groups which lack organisations to represent them in the political sphere. Relative deprivation is a feeling of being denied rewards. Criminal subcultures are values and norms of a group which go against those of mainstream society. These three concepts show that feelings of deprivation are compounded by the consumer culture of modern Britain, i.e. advertising and the media present individuals with images of what they could obtain. Thus a rising standard of living can lead to a rising crime rate.
On the other hand, Right Realists argue that an underclass is emerging – a group of clearly distinguishable young people. According to Charles Murray (1990), this group of young people have no desire for employment and would rather live illegally or on benefits, have a range of short-term sexual liaisons and fathers do not see their children as their responsibility. Due to the over-generous welfare system, a stark dependency culture has been created. This has also resulted in the erosion of a solid work ethic. Similarly, Marsland (1992) argues the dependency cultures takes initiative away from people and undermines the nuclear family. Self-reliance and discipline is taught in the home – if it is not taught properly or at all it leads to crime and deviance.
Nevertheless, young people alone are not to blame. Classical Marxists offer an explanation of crime arguing that capitalism as an economic system is criminogenic. This is because it is based on the fundamental exploitation of one group by another which leads to embedded social inequality and oppression. The nature of capitalism in itself encourages crime, e.g. greed, selfishness and instant gratification. Furthermore, Marxists argue Right Realists focus too much on working class crime; crime of the powerful are almost always overlooked and ignored. Chambliss’ (1973) research on boys from different classes titled the ‘Saints and the Roughnecks’, where the Saints and Roughnecks were middle class and working class boys, respectively. Chambliss’ research showed both groups committed equally criminal and deviant acts but the police were more likely to arrest and charge the Roughnecks.
On the other hand, an approach offered by Wilson and Kelling (1982) explains that crime flourishes in areas where there is a lack of social control. They offer an analogy where the amount of ‘broken windows’ can be likened to the amount of crime in that area. If one window is broken, and left unrepaired, more windows are broken which results in crime. Wilson and Kelling also claim that broken windows are found in inner city areas where lower working class males from generally black ethnic minorities reside. Through zero-tolerance policing, order can be maintained and it is seen as the key to reducing serious crime.
However, Hall (1978) argues young black people, especially males are stereotypes and labelled as criminal by British society. They are seen as a scapegoat for social problems. Furthermore, Interactionist Becker (1963) argues there is no such thing as a deviant act – an act is only seen as deviant when others see it as deviant and define it as such. This notion can be applied to black males being stereotypes as criminal or deviant. This is because what is seen as criminal or deviant is wholly dependent on how people define social situations and social actions.
On the other hand, criminality can be explained through a lack of social bonds according to Hirschi (1969). He put forward the ‘control theory’ and argued the social bonds that bind people to society are composed of four key elements: attachment, commitment, involvement and belief. Attachment means having strong emotional bonds with others, commitment means investing time in social activity, involvement is having a busy life and belief is a commitment to a set of norms and values. This shows that individuals engage in criminal activity when their attachment to society is weakened. Hirschi’s work is very much influenced by Durkheim and his emphasis on socialisation and social control and the concept of anomie.
However, New Criminologists or Neo-Marxists Taylor, Walton and Young (1973) reject Hirschi’s idea of a lack of social bonds. This is because they argue the choices people make are conscious, deliberate and politically motivated. They argue that we must look at the wider origins of the deviant act as well as the immediate origins. Neo-Marxists argue that deviance needs to be explained from different viewpoints, which consider how society is organised and at the same time how and why individuals choose to be different. Furthermore, Hall et al (1978) analysed the social, economic and political conditions as well as the motivation of the media and government and concluded that the combination of these factors all coming together at the same time led to a moral panic.
In conclusion, Right Realism focuses on inadequate social control and family diversity as an explanation for crime and deviance. They are more concerned with the widespread fear of crime rather than finding solutions to crime or preventing it. However, they fail to acknowledge whether people commit crime for a genuine reason. Furthermore, they have no convincing evidence that an underclass exists as a distinct subculture. In terms of relevance, the Right Realist theory is outdated due to the trend of postmodernism. This is because postmodernism reflects increasing diversity in the UK and that people may commit crime or choose to be deviant through increasing freedom and choice.
Also depending on the phrasing of the question, I would put in the solutions, e.g. zero tolerance policing (militaristic policing), measures to increase costs of offending and reduce benefits e.g. CCTV, target hardening, defensible space (newman). Also can put neighbourhood watch schemes - give the community power to act as informal social control.
However, I'm just another student and am stuck on this question, so would quite someone elses opinion..