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Sociology A2 Exam Prep Essay

1116 words - 5 pages

“Assess the usefulness of realist approaches in understanding crime and deviance”

In your answer you should make use of material from the following areas; Religion, Education, Mass Media, Family & Households etc.

Both left and right wing sociologists have attempted to develop ‘realistic’ theories of crime which offer practical solutions in dealing with the issue. However, the way these two approaches go about this is radically different, as right and left realism are from completely opposite ends of the political spectrum. Although like all sociological/criminological theories, they have their limitations and flaws, both approaches have proven useful in understanding crime and deviance ...view middle of the document...

Despite its complexity however, left realism has failed to “deliver the goods” in terms of empirical research. How good is a theory if it can’t be tested? Furthermore, Ruggerio claims that white collar and corporate crimes, which have real victims and serious consequences, can not be explained under the framework of left realism. In response to this however, left realists argue that this is simply because the victimisation studies they have carried out show that there is a real and serious fear of street crime amongst the public. They therefore focus upon this type of crime in their analysis.

A further strength of left realism is that it has had a massive influence on the social polices that the government has pursued in an attempt to solve the problem of crime. Kinsey, Lea and Young have identified a number of problems in policing that need to be “ironed out” if crime is do be dealt with. For example, they argue that the police spend too little time investigating crimes, and that the public have lost their faith in the police (in fact, research shows that 75% of young people believe that the police fabricate evidence and use undue violence towards suspects). Consequently, recent police reforms have took this into account, and now members of the public are employed to carry out routine police tasks, so that officers can spend more time investigating crime.

In terms of explaining crime, left realism has proven very useful, and has revived concepts such as “relative deprivation”. Young proposes that the disparity between people’s high expectations, and what they can actually achieve given their economic position, causes people to turn to crime, and often, people will resort to deviant subcultures in an attempt to deal with this. Cross referencing with religion, research has shown that West Indian immigrants often turn to Pentecostal or Rastafarian religious movements as part of their subcultural style, which often advocate criminal activity such as smoking cannabis and ‘hustling’ for money.

However, Jones is critical of left realist explanations of crime, claiming that if relative deprivation is a fundamental cause of crime, why don’t all relatively deprived people become criminal? This highlights how the usefulness of left realism is limited in some aspects.

From a radically different position, right realists reject the view that poverty and deprivation cause crime. James Q. Wilson for example,...

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