relative deprivation by stariya


									                                                  deprivation drives people into crime. In the
                                                  conventional viewpoint on crime, the
                                                  criminal is flawed; he or she lacks human
                                                  values and cognition.         In the radical
                                                  interpretation of this, the very opposite is
                                                  true. The criminal, not the honest person,
                                                  has the superior consciousness: he or she
                                                  has seen through the foolishness of the
                                                  straight world. To be well conditioned is to
                                                  be well deceived. The criminal then enters
“RELATIVE DEPRIVATION”                            into a new world of value – a subculture,
                                                  relieved in part of the mystifications of the
                                                  conventional world.
John Lea and Jock Young (1984)
                                                           We reject both these positions. The
                                                  radical version smacks of theories of
                                                  absolute deprivation; we would rather put
                                                  at the centre of our theory notions of relative
Discontent is a product of relative, not
                                                  deprivation. And a major source of one’s
absolute, deprivation. […] Sheer poverty, for
                                                  making comparisons – or indeed the feeling
example, does not necessarily lead to a
                                                  that one should, in the first place, ‘naturally’
subculture of discontent; it may, just as
                                                  compete and compare oneself with others –
easily, lead to quiescence and fatalism.
                                                  is capitalism itself.
Discontent occurs when comparisons
                                                           We are taught that life is like a
between comparable groups are made
                                                  racetrack: that merit will find its own
which suggest that unnecessary injustices
                                                  reward. This is the central way our system
are occurring. If the distribution of wealth is
                                                  legitimates itself and motivates people to
seen as natural and just – however disparate
                                                  compete. But what a strange racetrack! In
it is – it will be accepted. An objective
                                                  reality some people seem to start half-way
history of exploitation, or even a history of
                                                  along the track (the rich), while others are
increased exploitation, does not explain
                                                  forced to run with a millstone around their
disturbances. Exploitative cultures have
                                                  necks (for example, women with both
existed for generations without friction: it is
                                                  domestic and non-domestic employment),
the perception of injustice – relative
                                                  while others are not even allowed onto the
deprivation – which counts.
                                                  track at all (the unemployed, the members
                                                  of the most deprived ethnic groups). The
                                                  values of an equal or meritocratic society
                                                  which capitalism inculcates into people are
                                                  constantly at loggerheads with the actual
                                                  material inequalities in the world. And,
For orthodox criminology crime occurs
                                                  contrary to the conservatives, it is the well-
because of a lack of conditioning into values:
                                                  socialized person who is the most liable to
the criminal, whether because of evil (in the
                                                  crime. Crime is endemic to capitalism
conventional model) or lack of parental
                                                  because it produces both egalitarian ideals
training (in the welfare model), lacks the
                                                  and material shortages.           It provides
virtues which keep us all honest and
                                                  precisely the values which engender
upright. In left idealism, crime occurs not
                                                  criticism of the material shortages which the
because of lack of values but simply because
                                                  radicals pinpoint.
of lack of material goods: economic
        A high crime rate occurs in precise
conditions: where a group has learnt              RELATIVE DEPRIVATION
through its past that it is being dealt with
invidiously; where it is possible for it easily   Relative deprivation is the excess of
to pick up the contradictions just referred to    expectations over opportunities.            The
and where there is no political channel for       importance of this concept is that it gets
these feelings of discontent to be realized.      away from simplistic notions that try [to]
There must be economic and political              relate discontent and collective violence to
discontent and there must be an absence of        levels of absolute deprivation. The link
economic and political opportunities.             between relative derivation and political
                                                  marginality is crucial for understanding
                                                  riots and collective violence.        Political
THE NATURE OF CRIME AND CRIMINAL                  marginality is unlikely to result in riot
VALUES                                            unless there is the added sense of frustration
                                                  stemming from relative deprivation. A
For conventional criminology, […] crime is        social group may be economically and
simply antisocial behaviour involving             politically marginalized, yet if it has no
people who lack values. For left idealists it     desire to participate in the structure of
is the reverse: it is proto-revolutionary         opportunities and social rights from which it
activity, primitive and individualistic,          is excluded, frustration need not occur. For
perhaps, but praiseworthy all the same. It        the rioters of the eighteenth century the
involves, if it is a theft, a redistribution of   problem was not the failure to be included
income, or if it is part of youth culture,        in a structure of opportunities stemming
symbolic and stylistic awareness of, say, the     from industrial society, so much as the fact
loss of traditional working-class community       that an existing way of life was in the
or the repressive nature of the system. In        process      of    being      destroyed       by
either case it involves alternative values.       industrialization and its opportunity
         We would argue that both of these        structure.      In contemporary industrial
interpretations of crime are superficial. It is   societies social groups that have a high
true that crime is antisocial – indeed the        degree of economic and political marginality
majority of working-class crime, far from         but a low sense of relative deprivation tend
being a prefigurative revolt, is directed         to be either deviant subcultures, particularly
against other members of the working class.       religious groups oriented to ‘other-worldly
But it is not antisocial because of lack of       pursuits’ or first-generation immigrant
conventional values but precisely because of      communities. The latter, forced to take the
them. For the values of most working-class        worst jobs and the worst housing that
criminals are overwhelmingly conventional.        industrial societies have to offer, may still, in
They involve individualism, competition,          the short term, be sheltered from a sense of
desire for material goods and, often,             relative deprivation by virtue of the fact that
machismo.        Such crime could, without        their standard of comparison is not so much
exaggeration, be characterized as the             the opportunity structure of the wider
behaviour of those suitably motivated             society from which they are excluded by
people who are too poor to have access to         racial discrimination or legal barriers, as the
the Stock Exchange. Crime reflects the fact       societies from which they recently
that our own worlds and our own lives are         emigrated by comparison with which living
materially and ideologically riddled with         standards are higher.
the capitalist order within which we live.                 Conversely, of course, a sense of
                                                  relative deprivation can co-exist with the
absence of economic or political marginality.     areas throughout the country – not just in
This is the situation with regard to the          the older industrial areas – is far less
majority of the organized working class in        cohesive. The fragmentation of employment
industrial societies faced with a marked          between older, industrial employment in
inequality in the distribution of wealth and      decline, newer state employment in the
opportunities.         Relative    deprivation    public services, and new small firms relying
becomes the driving force of militant trade       on cheap labour, combined with a greater
union and political struggles to increase         cultural and ethnic diversity as older
living standards through the process of           sections of the working class have moved
political negotiation and compromise.             out of the area or just ceased to exist and
These     distinctions    between     relative    new immigrant communities have been
deprivation     combined      with    political   established, has produced a much greater
integration    and     relative    deprivation    diversity of levels and types of labour-
combined with political marginality enables       movement organization.          It is not that
us to understand some of the differences          organization has not emerged in the inner
between the 1930s, with their relative            cities, but it no longer constitutes the
absence of riots despite high levels of           cohesive and unifying force in the working-
unemployment, and the present period.             class community that it once did. Added to
During the 1930s the experience of                this is the massive growth in the number of
unemployment was not linked as closely as         young people who have never worked and
it is today with political marginality.           therefore are not familiar with the
Unemployment was concentrated in the              organization and attitude of working-class
older working-class communities centred in        politics. The isolation of youth from work
the basic industries of the north, iron and       and from class political organizations
steel, shipbuilding, coal mining, etc. The        combines with the reduced hegemony of
experience of unemployment was often the          working-class        institutions    in    the
collective experience of a whole community        community, by comparison with the 1930s,
related to the slump of the industry around       to produce an acuteness of political
which the community lived and worked.             marginality probably never previously
This meant that the institutions of class         experienced by any section of British society
politics – the trades councils, Labour party      since industrialization.
and union branches – appeared to the                        But the burden of our argument
unemployed as the natural weapons of              here is that this acute political marginality
struggle. The attempt to transfer these           is, for the young unemployed, combined
traditional methods of struggle at work into      with a greater sense of relative deprivation
the arena of the struggle for work, such as in    than in the 1930s.          It is this volatile
the     construction    of     the   National     combination that underlies the rising street
Unemployed Workers Movement, was an               crime and collective violence that we see
obvious course of action for the                  returning to our cities. This sharp growth of
unemployed, most of whom had spent a              relative deprivation follows from quite
period of their lives at work. Even the           fundamental changes, again by contrast
younger unemployed could be drawn into            with the 1930s, and even more with the
this through the general status and influence     nineteenth century, in the mechanisms
of labour-movement institutions in the            determining the relationship between
cohesive working-class community.                 expectations and the opportunities for
         The present period presents two          achieving them. […]
contrasts to this. First, the working-class                 Particularly since the last war the
community, particularly in the inner-city         growth of the Welfare State has combined
with the mass media and mass secondary           concerned, was for greater standardization
education to produce a steady growth on          and raising the minimum, the nature of
relative deprivation. The mass media have        post-war economic expansion was to create
disseminated a standardized image of             a working-class opportunity structure which
lifestyle particularly in the areas of popular   was increasingly differentiated in terms of
culture and recreation which, for those          wage levels and working conditions. The
unemployed and surviving through the dole        decline of manufacturing employment in
queue, or only able to obtain employment at      general and the rise of new highly paid
very low wages, has accentuated the sense        white-collar and technical occupations,
of relative deprivation. The spread of mass      combined with new sectors of low pay in
state secondary education has had a similar      services (often combining low pay and
effect, not so much by standardizing             unsociable hours) and small firms, has
expectations of career patterns, living          produced a more diverse set of
standards, etc., as by raising the minimum       opportunities at the same time as
expectation.       During the period of          expectations have been becoming more
exceptional economic expansion of the 1950s      standardized. In the short run the solution
and 1960s this posed no problems. But now        to this problem in most Western industrial
the phenomenon of ‘over-education’ is            societies was immigrant labour. […] The
beginning to appear. As Cloward and Ohlin        passivity of the early, post-war, immigrant
(1960: 118-20) have pointed out, the excess      communities was based on a combination of
of aspirations and opportunities can             a cultural orientation towards the homeland
paradoxically lay the basis for social, racial   and an expected short stay in Britain. This
and other forms of discrimination […]            means that immigrant workers were
         The      consequence       is    that   prepared to accept working conditions
expectations have become governed by a set       which would not be accepted by native
of mechanisms much more loosely, if at all,      workers, such as low pay and flexible shift
related to opportunities. The latter are still   systems involving long periods of night
to a large extent determined by the market       work. In addition, the legal barriers of alien
mechanism coupled, of course, with massive       status and racial prejudice of the native
growth of state intervention and investment,     British population generally excluded
which itself has had an effect on relative       immigrants from better paid forms of
deprivation. As it has become perceived          employment.
that the state has taken responsibility for               This situation has been brought to a
major components of the opportunity              conclusion during the 1970s by the growth
structure through careers and employment         of a second generation of Britons of
in state services, as well as the general        immigrant percentage. Going through the
responsibility undertaken by post-war            same education system (despite various
governments, until recently, for maintaining     forms of discrimination operating there), the
the level of employment, so the discrepancy      children of immigrant families have grown
between expectations and opportunities,          up with the same spectrum of aspirations
now growing as a result of economic              and expectations derived from the mass
recession and cutbacks in state spending,        media and the education system as young
becomes blamed on the ‘system’, rather than      people in general.         Expectations and
the individual.                                  opportunities, then, have been moving in
         Meanwhile, another quite important      opposite directions, relative deprivation has
change was taking place, the consequences        been increasing, and, as the state has
of which are now much clearer. While the         increasingly been seen as the determinant of
tendency, as far as expectations were            opportunities, the resentment of unfulfilled
expectations increasingly takes the form of
resentment against the state and its
manifestation, particularly those, like the
police, who are encountered on a day-to-day
basis by the young unemployed.

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