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June 7, 2013 / C H Thompson

Right realism continued

In essence right realism moved away from social theories of crime towards more explanations centred around the individual. Their ideas contained several themes – which sometimes seemed to contradict each other.

  1. Wilson (1983) – social causes of crime – unemployment, deprivation etc – aren’t sound because from the 1950s there’s been a rapid improvement in social conditions. During this period crime rates haven’t decreased but increased.
  2. Wilson and Herrnstein (1986) – crime as biological roots which can’t be engineered out of individuals
  3. People commit crime through rational choice – this means recidivists simply lack self-control (Hirschi, 1990)
  4. Murray (1990) argues crime rates exploded declining moral standards particularly in the development of a criminally motivated ‘underclass’. This underclass is best optimised by Vikki Pollard below.

In Wilson’s book, ‘Thinking About Crime’ (1975) criminality is accounted for by the existence of ‘lower class’ people like Vikki Pollard who ‘attach little importance to the opinion of others’. In his later work Crime and Human Nature (1986) Wilson (along with Herrnstein) develops this theme by identifying causal and correlational factors through a bio-social explanation of recidivist behaviour.

Vikki Pollard Traits of impulsiveness, indifference to others and lacking any form of self-control which are particularly found in dysfunctional families. They identified a theme common to all these areas – choice. As choice is a conscious act filtered through costs verses benefits, those people who haven’t developed the capacity of choice through genetic shortcomings.

Hirschi (1990) challenged Wilson’s merger of genetic determinism with the free will dimension of human nature.

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