Understanding Criminology: Current Theoretical Debates

By Sandra Walklate | Go to book overview

chapter three
Understanding 'right realism'

Socio-biological explanations: the work of Wilson and Herrnstein

Rational choice theory

The routine activity approach

Administrative criminology

Right realism: a critique

Ways of thinking about the family and crime

Conclusion

Further reading

The commitment to the welfare ethic of the 1950s in the UK reflected an underlying belief that social problems could be solved socially – that is, through the provision of adequate social and economic conditions. If such conditions were provided then social problems, including the problem of crime, would disappear. The continuing rising crime rate, combined with worldwide recession, however, called a halt to this way of addressing social problems and paved the way for a different manner of thinking and talking about crime and the crime problem. This different manner of thinking was characterized primarily by the re-emergence of a focus on the causes of crime as lying within individual processes rather than social ones. Centring the individual, and the notion of individual responsibility, in this way became embedded in a whole range of political and policy imperatives, including crime, associated in Britain with the Conservative Party of the 1980s: a focus that, as we shall see, has been perpetuated by the Labour Party of the late 1990s onwards.

The political shift to the right in the UK paralleled similar developments in the USA. It is arguably there that a range of criminological ideas which might be loosely labelled 'right realism' first emerged. While such ideas are largely associated with American writers, they resonated politically with some aspects of the law and order debate which ensued in the UK. The concern of this chapter, therefore, will be to try to untangle the political

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