Sociology Index


Left realism is a criminological perspective which emerged in response to the rise of neo-conservatism. Left realism can be contrasted with left idealism, which, while also believing that the structure of capitalism is the culprit in crime, tended to see working class crime as acts of rebellion or political resistance. Neo-conservatism is the name of a robust strain in American intellectual life and American politics. Pat Carlen suggests that the main tenets of left realism, theoretical explanations must be symmetrical, there must be the same explanation for social action and reaction. The 'left' should attempt to develop a credible approach to crime control in order to prevent the 'right' from having a monopoly of the 'crime problem.'

The right-wing politics of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made it clear that left-leaning criminology had little impact on social policy and was going to have little significance in the future. Some critical criminologists struggled to make their work relevant and did so by focusing on the working class as victims of street crime, state and corporate crime and women as victims of male crime.

Left realism is also known as radical realism. Left realism asserted that official studies of crime underestimated victimization of the working class and women and supported community controlled research as a method of getting at the ‘reality’ of their experience. Social policies to reduce victimization of marginal communities, involve communities in crime prevention, return political control to local communities and increased police accountability follow from this beginning point.

British and U.S. Left Realism: A Critical Comparison
Walter S. DeKeseredy, Martin D. Schwartz.
Left realism has generated enormous interest and controversy in critical criminology over the past several years both in North America and in the United Kingdom.

Realist Criminology: Crime Control and Policing in the 1990's 
J Lowman ; B D MacLean. This book presents a left realist approach to crime control and law enforcement.
Abstract: Left realism is a school of critical criminology that arose in Great Britain in the 1980's to reassert the centrality of the victim in the development of a progressive criminology. Critical left realism recognizes the seriousness of street crime for its victims. In Great Britain, left realists conduct local crime surveys (victimization Survey) to measure patterns of victimization and policing.

This book presents the case for left realism; offers a critical assessment of left realism, based on an analysis of realist criminology in Canada and Cuba and its influence on issues such as prostitution and corporate law; discusses the relationship between left realism and feminism; and explores the implications of left realism for victimology.

Essentialism, Radical Criminology, and Left Realism - D Brown ; R Hogg.
Journal: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology. This article reflects on recent radical criminological developments in Australia and Britain. The primary focus in on left realism, also known as radical realism. The authors argue that the realist project, by appropriating the unifying category of crime around which to formulate policies and politics aimed to express the interests of the working class, continues elements of the essentialism of past radical criminologists. This argument is expanded upon in relation to radical criminology, left realism, and the left critiques of left realism. The article also makes an assessment of the relevance of left realism in the Australian context.

Jock Young, left realism and critical victimology
Sandra Lyn Walklate
Abstract: In this paper I reflect upon the legacy of the work of Jock Young for the development of a critical criminology. In doing this I also endeavour to offer a contribution to an internal history of both criminology and victimology but from a very particular, and personal, position. The paper falls into four parts. In the first I consider the time period from 1980–1997 and academic, political and policy debates therein. I have called this a time of emergent optimism. The second part considers the years from 1997–2007 in which this optimism was subjected to challenge. The third part considers 2007 to date and the challenges that remain for both criminology and victimology in the absence of the voice of Jock Young.

Criticism and Criminology: In Search of Legitimacy.
GEORGE PAVLICH, University of Auckland, New Zealand.
Critique claims legitimacy either on the basis of an ability to secure universal emancipation, or increase managerial efficiency. Both claims are problematic since contemporary knowledge-producing arenas no longer embrace the certainties driving modernity's critical genres and technical efficiency disallows fundamental critique. In trying to recover legitimate genres of critique, I refer to recent developments within critical criminology.

Left realism, local crime surveys and policing of racial minorities.
Brian D. Maclean, Kwantlen College, Richmond Campus, Vancouver, Canada.
Abstract: The inner-city riots of 1980s Britain provoked an important set of debates in the progressive criminological literature about police accountability and the policing of racial minorities. The strategy employed by the left realism school made use of the local crime survey in order to gather data on crime and policing practices that were used in public forum to make police accountable.

Left realist criminology: Strengths, weaknesses and the feminist critique
Martin D. Schwartz, Walter S. DeKeseredy, Journal Crime, Law and Social Change.

Abstract Although there is an already large British literature both supporting and attacking left realism, and a growing North American interest on the subject among criminologists, there has been surprisingly little written which attempts to locate both the strengths and weaknesses of the left realism's position on crime control. Perhaps the place where the left realists may be weakest is in response to a feminist critique.

Actually, it is not only left realism but the socialist left in general which has been unsuccessful in providing adequate responses to the issues brought forth by feminists. This paper attempts to locate the position of left realism within the left criminology debate, and to find its strong and weak points.