Left Realist Criminology A New Theoretical Perspective

Left Realist Criminology A New Theoretical Perspective

Rather it suggests that it is within the core institutions of society (its relationships of class and of gender) and its central values (such as competitive individualism and aggressive masculinity) that crime arises.
Crime is not a product of abnormality but of the normal workings of the social order. Secondly, it is realistic in that it attempts to be faithful to the reality of crime. This involves several tasks: realistically appraising the problem of crime, deconstructing crime into its fundamental components (the square of crime), critically examining the nature of causality, being realistic about the possibilities of intervention and, above all, fully understanding the changing social terrain in which we now live. The particular political space in which left realism emerged was in the mid-1980s. The juxtaposition was with the emergence of conservative (neo-liberal’) governments in many Western countries which pursued an overtly punishment-oriented approach to crime control.
At that time a liberal/ social democratic opposition was on the defensive. The neoliberals actively pointed to the rise in the crime rate and entered vigorously into law and order campaigns on behalf of the silent majority’, holding offenders responsible for their actions and advocating punishment as the solution. The New Left position, which had its origins in the libertarianism of the 1960s, tended to resemble a mirror image of the right. That is, it denied or downplayed the level of crime, portrayed the offender as victim of the system, and stressed a multiculturalism of diversity and struggle where radicalism entailed the defence of the community against the incursions of the state, particularly the police and the criminal justice system. What was necessary was a criminology which could navigate between these two currents: which took crime seriously but which was radical in its analysis and policy. (Muncie, 2003, 144-163)
These theoretical developments, originating from the mid 1970s, however, took place against the political backdrop of a resurgence in popular law and order politics and authoritarianism. In the UK and the United States the rhetoric of a resurgent radical Right revived a neo-classical vision of criminality as voluntaristic a course of action willingly chosen by calculating individuals, lacking in self-control and with a potential for communal contamination and moral degeneracy. New realist’ theorists of the Right disengaged from existing criminological agendas whether they be positivist or critical by claiming that crime emanates from rationally calculating individuals who are insufficiently deterred from the actions by a criminal justice system deemed to be chaotic and ineffective or lacking in just deserts’. Both remind us of the potency and endurance of classicist and neo-classicist formulations of the crime problem’. The key concern is with developing efficient means of control rather than with questions of causality. Against a backdrop of perennially growing official statistics of crime and the presumption of increases in a rational public fear,

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