LEFT AND RIGHT REALISM
Right Realism (James Q. Wilson and Ron Clarke)
(Sociobiological explanations, rational choice theory, the routine activity approach, and administrative criminology –for their work in helping the state to administer the criminal justice system).
The 1980’s saw a return to ways of thinking about crime that although packaged in a different language, revitalized the idea that the sources of lawlessness reside in individuals not within the social fabric.
They make an appeal to common sense. However, common sense seems to be defined as the popular, media-influenced picture of crime in contemporary society. Various liberal approaches have failed. The following is evidence of this failure: (i) high crime rates, (ii) a sense that the criminal justice system is soft on crime, (iii) a sense that the criminal justice system tends to favor and protect the accused, (iv) a sense that police forces are understaffed and hampered by liberal policies that restrict their power, and (v) a sense that victim’s rights are neglected and that they deserve court-sanctioned retribution for crimes committed against them.
Right realists advocate for law and order policies. Laws should be unambiguous and rigidly enforced. The consequences of transgression should not be an attempt at treatment or reform of the offender. These approaches are considered ineffectual. Instead, harsh punishments should be enforced as a means of getting offenders off the streets, as deterrence to future crime, as social retribution. The major emphasis is on order and discipline as crime flourishes where social discipline is lax.
Left Realism Jock Young, Elliot Currie
It starts from a position which centralizes the need to address problems as people experience them.
Mainstream criminology are interested only in crimes committed by working class, poor, or unemployed people. They have been totally uninterested in crimes that actually cause more monetary loss and physical injury but that are committed by people and corporations with money. Critical criminologists have made important contributions to the study of the crimes of the powerful, such as corporate crimes, government wrongdoings, and white collar crimes. But most critical criminologists ignored the causes and possible control of crime committed by members of the working class against other members of the working class, with the exception of violence against women, children and members of the ethnic groups. This failure to acknowledge working class crime has come at a great price to the left. It has allowed right wing politicians in several countries to claim opposition to street crime as their own issue, giving them room to generate ideological support for harsh law and order policies. So, in North America politicians presume that only conservatives have expertise and knowledge about crime and policing.
Left realism is a reaction against both left’s tendency to neglect victimization among working class people and the conservatives’ extremely harsh social strategies. It is a perspective that attempts to explain and measure street crime and propose short term policies to control it. It is an attack on left idealists who offer simplistic analyses based heavily on instrumental Marxist and feminist views of the state and law, but who ignore street crime and offer no practical proposal for change.
Left Realist attacks on left idealists
Public fear of crime and working class criminals is a serious barrier to developing a society in which people trust one another and work together toward a common goal.
For some idealists any criminal justice reform is useless. Only a fundamental change from a capitalist economy to a socialist one can reduce or eliminate crime. In its extreme form, the idealist argument is that implementing criminal justice reform could convince people that things might get better and thus must be opposed since that would delay revolution.
The public attitude toward crime and punishment has changed in recent years. For example, even if the US has the harshest and most punitive imprisonment system in the world, many, if not most Americans believe it when politicians and media figures claim that most criminals receive only a slap on the wrist.
In both Canada and the US many politicians who want to win voter approval push for sharp reductions in the government budget but big increases in government expenditures for policing and prisons.
Analyze any federal or provincial political party’s platform and write specific measures to deal with criminal problems from the perspective of Left or Right Realism.