ABSTRACT

There are many aspects of left realist theory, but perhaps the most important contribution made by this progressive school of thought is the focus on street crimes. As noted below, this emphasis led to a relative shortage of left realist work on crimes of the powerful (e.g., state-sponsored terrorism), which is arguably a shortcoming but definitely not a fatal flaw. Yet, an original impetus for the entire field was the tendency of the left to focus mainly on corporate and state crimes. Some theorists spent much time explaining away concern with street crime as moral panics created by sensationalist media or by fear-mongering politicians. On the left, many theorists still downplay the seriousness and extent of violence by underclass members for fear of pathologizing the poor, helping to gain support for conservative draconian punishment policies, or being accused of racism for arguing that people of color commit many of these crimes. Certainly one cannot deny that a great deal of crime fear throughout the Western world comes from this combination of a lurid and melodramatic media and politicians who discovered that one can win a deluge of votes by painting all minority youth as drug-using criminals out to harm honest folk (Mann and Zatz 1998).