Left Realism

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LEFT REALISM.

Left Realism developed in the 1980s and is particularly identified with John Lea and Jock Young (1984). Left Realists are interested to find out why crime was increasing so significantly

Left Realism is critical of the perspectives which sees longer prison sentences as the solution to crime, (Right Realists) but also oppose the views of left idealists. Therefore it developed as a response to traditional Marxist and neo-Marxist approaches (Left idealists), which it accused of:

* not taking crime seriously, and reducing it to simple moral panics induced by the capitalist state

• romanticizing working-class criminals as ‘Robin Hood’ characters, fighting against social inequality and injustice;

• failing to take victimization seriously.

Furthermore, like Marxists, Left Realists accept that structural inequalities and perceptions of injustice are the major causes of crime. However, Young believed that the left idealists (Marxists and neo-Marxists) ignored the importance of street crime in their research. Left Realists found through victim surveys, that the sort of crime that worries people most is primarily street crime like ‘mugging’, violence, car crime and burglary, which is mainly performed by young working-class males, both black and white. The main victims of these offences, and those who have the highest fears about crime, are the poor, the deprived, the ethnic minorities and inner-city residents. They recognize that most people don’t care much about white- collar or corporate crime, as it has little impact on their lives.

They attack the idea that offenders can sometimes be seen as promoting justice (as some Neo-Marxists argue like Taylor, Walton and Young, and Gilroy). Actually most victims of crime are poor!

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The explanation of crime
Lea and Young believe that street crime is rooted in social conditions and is closely linked to

Relative deprivation. Left Realists do not believe that poverty and unemployment can be seen as directly responsible for crime. Deprivation will only lead to crime when it is relative deprivation. A group such as ethnic minorities feel deprived compared to other groups.

Marginalization, Some groups find themselves politically and economically ‘on the edge’ of society, through factors like poor educational achievement, unemployment, and lack of involvement in community organizations and lack organisations to represent them politically. They do not feel part of society.

Subcultures (such as Rastafarians) are a collective solution to a group’s problems such as relative deprivation and marginalization. Some working class subcultures see offending as acceptable behaviour; this can act as motivator for crime.

The solutions to crime (Kinsey, Lea and Young)

Left Realists emphasize the need to tackle the material and cultural deprivation — such as poverty, unemployment, poor housing and education, poor parental supervision, and broken families and family conflict — that are the risk factors for crime, particularly among young people.

Left Realists develop practical policies to tackle crime.
Building strong communities to work out local solutions to local problems, and create community cohesion

Multi-agency approach, involving everyone in the fight against crime, not just the criminal justice agencies.

Creation of Safer Neighbourhood or Police and Community Together (PACT) groups, where local people can identify the issues that worry them, and get the police and other agencies to deal with them

More democratic and community control of policing to win public confidence to tackle the causes of crime, and encourage victims to report crime

More time spent by the police in investigating crime

Tackling social deprivation and the other risk factors for crime by improving community facilities to divert potential offenders from choosing crime — for example, youth leisure activities — and reducing...
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