Left Realist, Jock Young, considered how changes in Western societies in the 1980s and 1990s might have encouraged rises in crime rates. He considered the impact of marketisation, globalisation and the rising inequality in society. The theme that globalisation has led and possibly encouraged an increase in crime is a theme developed by left of centre sociologists sympathetic to the view that the ‘New Right’ policies of political leaders such as Margaret Thatcher and George Bush have done immense harm to society as a whole.


Political views between Marxist and left realists, want more radical changes than those prescribed by left realists but stop well short of advocating a total transformation of society. Tend to refer to themselves as social democratic or socialist criminologists, or sociologists of crime and deviance. Particularly critical of increasing importance of market forces in Western capitalist societies, have analysed impact this had on society and crime in particular.


In ‘The Political Economy of Crime’, Ian Taylor wrote about important changes in the world economy in responses of governments and in culture: multinational corporations had shifted activities from country to country simply in search for greater profitability. Taylor agrees with the theory that suggests that mass production of standardised products (as started by Henry Ford) is no longer a viable way to ensure long term profit. Changes have reduced job security of full time staff and increased the amount of part time, temporary and insecure employment.


The state has reduced its role in social and economic planning, its involvement in the ‘provision of public goods in areas like health and welfare, transport, housing and urban planning’ (Taylor, 1997). Some of these areas have been increasingly opened up to market forces and competition that has led to cut backs in the provision of welfare. The EU, Taylor argues, has increasingly become an exclusively economic community, that has put its primary emphasis upon economic growth and on trying to gain an increasing share of world markets. Ruggiero, South and Taylor (1998) commented that in Europe ‘the emphasis on the market is leaving little space for the development of public and state institutions and for their consequent production of social cohesion and social justice’. The EU has become ‘dominated by corporations, monopolies and oligarchies’


Taylor continues that these changes have resulted in a change in society’s culture towards marketisation. Increasingly, ordinary members of society are encouraged to see their social life in market terms- calculate the economic costs and see the benefits of making particular decisions. Taylor includes criminals in this change. People are encouraged to see themselves as consumers who are entitled to be able to buy what they want. This in particular is pushed by the media:


“A discourse which identifies the viewer or the listener as a consumer of ‘goods’, and which glorifies the idea of choice across a range of different market places (unlimited tourist experiences, multiple channel television, a range of private health and personal insurance schemes.”) – Taylor 1998


Taylor doesn’t believe that marketisation and the idea of increased consumer consumption and choice completely pervades all European societies but he does believe they’re increasingly influential. Changes, he believes, have had a profound impact on crime.


Some sociologists have argued that growing globalisation and marketisation have resulted in more opportunities for criminality. They have also argued that to an extent they have encouraged crime because of the potential to make vast sums of money. They believe that capitalism has resulted on corporate greed and as a result has led to more criminal activity within businesses that extend their influence throughout the world. The deregulation of financial markets has provided increased opportunities for crimes such as insider trading. Taylor (1997) lists the example of Wall Street stockbrokers Drexel, Burnham and Lambert who were accused of manipulating the US stock market in 1990 and paid $650 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission in compensation. Globalisation and marketisation have also increased the opportunities for various types of crime based directly upon growth of market, consumer societies, for example insurance fraud by claimants and salespeople.


The growth of the EU has, according to Taylor, provided an enormous scope for defrauding the EU of money by making false claims for various subsidies. Taylor states that the EU loses some $7 billion per year due to fraud. The failure to clamp down on this, he argues, has encouraged others to try their luck. While such crimes may not be ‘sexy’ and fail to attract too much media attention, they are still crimes. Ultimately the money lost to fraud should have gone to good causes within the EU. So while the crime is painless, it still can have a marked impact on society.


Other crimes related to the changing nature of employment and unemployment. Taylor (1998) identified a fundamental shift in employment patterns in capitalist societies. Both mass manufacturing and public sector employment areas have experienced substantial job losses. At present there is little prospect of anything like a return to full employment in some regions of G20 nations. Taylor noted that the latest economic thinking suggests Britain could enjoy economic growth of 3% a year without any increase in employment opportunities. Currently the UK has a markedly smaller growth rate than 3% a year and some believe the economy faces having to deal with a double-dip recession (September 2011). If this is the case then unemployment will almost certainly continue to grow in the UK. Those with modern and technical skills will be in a position to do better during the economic gloom. Those with dated skills may find it difficult – and some say – impossible to get back into the jobs market at a level they previously had. Another issue is that multi-national corporations are going through a phase of moving out of the UK and setting up in countries where there is a cheaper and larger source of labour. Countries in Asia have benefitted from this but clearly the UK has suffered. 


Taylor describes that areas most affected by unemployment suffer ‘the massively destructive effects that this joblessness clearly has had on the self-respect of individuals and communities’. Areas blighted by unemployment have little hope of major improvement, and the longer that high levels of unemployment last, the greater the cumulative effects. Taylor believes that the lack of opportunity and hope leads some to turn to crime. Officially recorded burglary increased by 122% between 1971 and 1991 – a twenty year time span that included the years of austerity in industry that marked some years of the premiership of Margaret Thatcher when unemployment peaked at 3 million.



Changing patterns of work have also created more opportunities and incentives for criminal activity based on work. Ruggiero, South and Taylor (1998) believe subcontracting encourages the employment of people who are working illegally, fraudulent benefit claimers and those employed in conditions or wage levels which fail to conform to national laws. This often happens in clothing, food and building industries. Subcontractors may break rules to cut costs in order to get and retain contracts in competitive industries and to maximise their profits.




Courtesy of Lee Bryant, Director of Sixth Form, Anglo-European School, Ingatestone, Essex