Right realism explanations on crime and deviance


Key assumptions of realist criminology

  • accept the 'typical criminal' that police recorded figures show
  • challenge traditional theories for being too 'idealistic' and romanticising the criminal
  • concerned about the 'corrosive effects that crime can have on communities'
  • challenging traditional theories for offering no practical solutions to crime
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Key assumptions of right realism

  • focus on 'street crime'
  • tend to blame the individual offender
  • solutions focus on controlling people
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Theorist 1; Wilson

The importance of social order

  • challenges mainstream criminology
  • argues they are based on ideology rather than facts e.g. white collar-crime is over-emphasised
  • he believes that long-term trends in crime can be accounted for:

1. How many young males in society = most likely to commit crime as they are temperamentally aggressive and have short term horizons - crime will increase or decrease depending on how many young males there are

2. The availability of jobs and the state of the economy = benefits and cost of crime will change depending on things like accessibility, the economy and job availability - particularly affects property crime

3. How people are socialised into society = family, media and religion influence general norms and values - can affect the extent to which 'at risk' people are tempted into deviance or are willing to conform

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Theorist 1; Wilson

  • argues that these 3 factors are uncontrollable
  • this means that no government can actually prevent crime at the source
  • does not believe poverty is the real cause of crime (many poor people don't commit crime)
  • therefore, attempting to redistribute wealth is costly, unfair and will not reduce crime
  • to reduce crime it is about enforcing the law with less emphasis on the severity of the punishment and more emphasis on the likelihood of being caught
  • the environment plays a key role in creating a 'culture' of order and acceptable behaviour:

social order is maintained = individuals will not be tempted to partcipate in deviant behaviour

police visbly clamping down on crime = culture is created where other residents also report crime    more and are involved in informal social


impression that nobody cares amd disorder is prevalent = previously law-abiding people may see it as acceptable to join in with deviant behaviour

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Theorist 2; Wilson and Kelling

Broken windows

  • when communities are faced with low level disorder they will stay indoors more and not get involved
  • crime will flourish as nobody is challenging it
  • urban decay develops
  • those who can will move away and the area goes into a downward spiral
  • once an area has a criminal culture there is little point policing it
  • police should spend their efforts elsewhere where they can make a difference
  • they should identify areas at tipping points and try to restore order with a visible police presence (right-realist solution)
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Theorist 2; Wilson and Kelling's study

Broken windows study


  • considered psychology experiments and a study into policing in New York in the mid-1970s
  • the police study experimented with increasing police foot patrols
  • after a 5 year programme, the local residents indicated that they felt much safer and that crime had reduced
  • police officers had a better relationship with residents
  • police had taken on an 'order maintenance' role, addressing low level deviance such as public drunkeness, rowdy behaviour and begging


  • came up with the 'broken window' phenomenon
  • when a derelict building had one broken window, the others will soon follow
  • when people identify a building as derelict and uncared for, they see it as acceptable to further vandalise it
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Theorist 2; Wilson and Kelling's study continued

Once criminal barriers have been broken down, deviance can happen anywhere!

Similar to Zimbardo who left an abandoned car in a middle-class area and one in a run-down area

  • 'unintended behaviour' leads to a breakdown of community controls
  • alternatively, if police have presence and address low-level disorder, this will create an orderly environment
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Theorist 3; Wilson and Hernstein

Biological criminal tendencies

  • there is a biological element to criminal behaviour
  • 'criminal' traits can be heightened if people lack proper socialisation
  • single-parent families, or those who lack commitment to society's norms and values, may not provide proper socialisation - similar to Murray
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