Right Realism - No evidence (2. Assumptions (People are naturally selfish…
Right Realism - No evidence
Right Realists do not ask the question why people commit crime - they believe people are naturally selfish and will commit crime if they are given the opportunity. Rather, they focus on ways society can prevent crime in the first place. They argue if social control is strong in society, then crime will be low. They focus on the two elements of social control: strong socialisation through the family and community, and if this fails strong formal punishments.
Right Realists call for greater social control.They call for:
a return to the traditional family values
strengthening of local community control over their inhabitants
harsher policing and stiffer sentences.
New Right Realism originated with the writings of JAMES Q WILSON. There are many different strands but the following represent some common threads.
1. Social Control - Hirschi
New Right Realists draw on the work of the Functionalist Durkheim and his views on the importance of social control. Durkheim argues that at times of great social change, people may not follow the collective norms so much or they might no longer be relevant and there might be a period of normlessness or anomie until the norms caught up or became reinforced.
Hirschi is a social control theorist.
Following Durkheim’s views that people will commit crime when social control is removed, he suggests that a more relevant question is to ask, not why people commit crime, but why they do not commit crime.
He suggests that people do not commit crime when they have strong attachments or bonds to society; individuals are linked to society by four bonds:
Attachment – how much they care about others’ wishes and opinions
Commitment – i.e. effort regarding educational achievement, work habits etc.
Involvement – hobbies, lifestyle etc.
Belief – in ‘right and wrong’
The strength of these attachments determines the extent to which a person conforms or engages in criminal activity; when these attachments are loosened or absent, people are freed from their control and are more likely to commit crime. Hirschi therefore stresses the importance of drawing people into society to strengthen bonds and thus prevent crime.
2. Families - Charles Murray
Right Realists believe in a strong nuclear family. Charles Murray links the rise in crime to the growth in lone-parent families. He points to the rise of an underclass in the big cities. This is a class which is below the working class. The characteristics of this class are that members do not work and are happy to be dependent on state benefits and who bring up their children in one-parent families because they have no respect for traditional values such as marriage. Male members of the working class are more prone to a life of crime because they have not been brought up in a two-parent family and had a male and female role model. They have lacked discipline and a male role- model to show young boys that masculinity is worked out through the male being the breadwinner. Without this example, young boys work out their masculinity through crime. Murray points out the large number of ‘fatherless families’ in the areas where crime rates are highest.
Wilson argues that if children are not socialised adequately by the family, then certain personality traits such as impulsiveness and lack of regard for others will become prominent and may lead to crime. Wilson argues families of low intelligence are less likely to socialise their children adequately and to be discordant.
It is based on assumptions that might not be accurate, such as one parent families are a factor in crime. Research indicates it may be the poverty experienced by many lone-parents that is the cause of crime.
Average age of lone parent is 34 - most common cause is divorce.
It offers practical solutions to the study of crime
3. Communities - Wilson
The community can also help prevent crime. Wilson and Kelling argue that strong neighbourhood effort and social control from the communities can reduce crime. Residents should work together to keep their communities crime free. They could do this by looking after the physical environment and informing the police of crime within the area. Wilson points out that vandalised buildings attract even more vandalism.
Jones (1998) argues that factors such as a lack of investment are far more important in preventing decline of an area than tolerance of a few broken windows.
It focuses on the victims of crime more than other theories.
It puts forward a theory of why poorer groups in society may commit crime
Wilson argues residents should take a pride in their community and keep it in good repair. He also argues that the local community should help the police maintain law and order - reporting crimes - Neighbourhood watch. According to his view, crime flourishes in areas where social control breaks down – these areas are characterised by anomie. The police would help by stamping down on petty crimes within the community to support the residents and to show them something was being done. However, if the social control breaks down and the incivilities go unchecked then the entire social order breaks down and there is a move to more serious crime.
New Right theorists suggest that individuals will make a rational decision to commit crime if:
The opportunity is there and it is easy to commit crime
The potential benefits outweigh the potential costs
They therefore argue;
It should be made difficult to commit crime
The costs of committing crime should be high
They suggest ways to make it more difficult to commit crime and more likely to get caught.
These include measures such as property marking which makes crime more difficult (target hardening). The second involves designing the environment to make it more difficult to commit crime, such as CCTV cameras. They also recommend that the costs of crime and punishments should be higher to turn people off committing crime. This includes harsher policing policies such as zero tolerance, three strikes and out. Wilson argues that the police should stamp down on petty crime to give out the message to youths that crime will not be tolerated.
Jones also points to the failure of the focus on the ‘three strikes and out’ approach in America. Despite this and increased levels of imprisonment, the crime rate has risen dramatically.
Interactionists would argue it ignores the ‘notion of the typical offender idea’ and the impact this may have on policing and therefore patterns of arrest.
Marxists would argue that it ignores the crimes of the rich and powerful and the power of the ruling class to define what is criminal i.e. the activities of the working class.
The follow Functionalist theory that there is a consensus of values in society and that laws reflect this consensus. People who commit crime are therefore harming people and people see the law as there to protect them. Right Realists therefore, have little sympathy with criminals and are more concerned with the victims of crime.
People are naturally selfish and greedy and as most crime is opportunistic, people will commit crime if the opportunity is there.
Society, therefore, has to find some way of controlling these selfish instincts. Socialisation - Children need to acquire a conscience - family teaching them right from wrong and giving them a strong moral code to control their selfish natures. The best type of family to do this is the two-parent family with a male and female role model because this is able to provide children with an example of how males and females behave.
Ignores same sex marriages/relationships
People are also rational and weigh up the costs and benefits of committing crime. According to Right Realists society should make it both difficult to commit crime and to have severe penalties so crime doesn’t pay and people are aware of this and will think twice about committing crime.
The Right do not accept that poverty is a cause of crime. They argue that when poverty was highest in the 1930’s, crime rates were low
This theory fails to look at the causes of crime such as poverty or relative poverty. It fails to look at the unequal opportunities people have in society.
4. Right Realists usefulness
Right Realism has had considerable influence on policymaking in contemporary Britain – during both Conservative and Labour governments. Its concentration on the responsibility of the individual for his or her actions seems to offer a straightforward explanation for deviance and an obvious solution – punishment for the offender. The focus on solutions was also a welcome change in the study of crime. However, it fails to tackle the underlying causes of crime and to explain why some groups are more likely to commit crime than others
New Right realism became popular in the 1990's. It shares many of the assumptions of the political right and of Functionalism.It claims to be a more realistic approach to crime as it focuses on the victims of crime and attempts to put forward solutions to crime.