Left Realism in Criminology and the Return to Consensus Theory

  • Kevin Stenson
  • Nigel Brearley
Part of the Explorations in Sociology book series (EIS)


The recasting of the knowledge base of social democracy has involved the use of the term ‘realism’ in a number of policy areas. In criminology, a social democratic, or ‘left’ realism has been developed by a group of intellectuals, in sympathy with the parties of the social democratic left, who seek to challenge the hegemony in left discourses of Marxist and neo-Marxist analyses of crime and the justice system. In their view, the left’s misuse of notions of moral panic (Hall et al., 1978), suggesting that the police, courts and mass media have exaggerated the incidence of crimes like mugging, has led to a serious underestimation of the scale of the problem of intra-class street crime for working-class people and the non-working poor. Street assaults and robberies, burglaries, sexual attacks and so on, in decayed inner-city neighbourhoods and poor housing estates are demoralising and are a key element in the social disorganisation of working-class ‘communities’, already suffering from a multiplicity of economic and social deprivations, including a marked vulnerability to the effects of white-collar crime (Lea and Young, 1984).


Justice System Crime Control Social Disorganisation Consensus Theory Left Realism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© British Sociological Association 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin Stenson
  • Nigel Brearley

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