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Left realism originated as an applied theory to support communities to tackle crime in British working-class urban areas. While there are challenges to transferring theory from one context (British urban) to another (Irish rural), using Ireland as a case study this chapter argues for the value of a left realist approach to agricultural theft. The objective of this chapter is to take a small step towards rectifying the hidden nature of agricultural theft, and fear of theft by ironing out some conceptual, theoretical and methodological issues. The chapter begins with a review of Irish and international farm victimisation surveys. The core concepts of left realism are then summarised and its lessons are applied to agricultural theft. The final section draws lessons for Ireland from the international literature and proposes a left realist research agenda.

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In 1991 there was a riot in Oxford’s Blackbird Ley estate; one of several riots that took place that year. Journalist Beatrix Campbell (1993) wrote an influential book, Goliath: Britain’s Dangerous Places, that explored the causes of these riots, based on her observations of the riots and interviews with members of the community and those who took part. She took a left-wing, feminist, underclass perspective which identified the rioters as coming from single-parent households with no prospects for work or education. She argued that the riots were a masculine response to a lack of work caused by deindustrialization. As my own research on drugs and violence has also highlighted the role of deindustrialization and the lack of meaningful work (Windle, 2018, 2019; Leonard & Windle, 2020), I have sympathy for Campbell’s position. I am unconvinced, however, that the theory fits reality in this case.

I grew up in Littlemore, a housing estate separated from Blackbird Leys by train tracks and waste ground. I remember the riots well. I was 15, too young and scared to make the trip across the waste ground to see the riots. Kids at school who lived on Blackbird Leys talked about the riots with a mixture of excitement and fear. My parents, uncles, and aunties swapped stories, picked up from friends and family living on the estate. We could see Windrush Towers, under which the riots took place, from our front window, and feared it would migrate to Littlemore.1

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Left Realism is an applied integrative theory. It is founded upon a social democratic position and draws from a range of sociological theories. It emerged during the late 1980s in response to the growing scholarly and policy influence of more conservative criminology. Elliot Currie suggests that there are two variants of left realism. Original Left Realism (with capitals) was pioneered by Jock Young and colleagues. The second, which Currie calls ‘plain left realism’ (without capitals), shed some elements that were of its time and place (that is, in the United Kingdom in the late 1980s) and is a ‘big tent’ under which many criminologists meet, including those who may not identify with original Left Realism. Nonetheless, several common principles draw all left realists together: they take lived experiences seriously, acknowledge that crime affects some communities more than others and identify crime as an endemic product of inequality. Traditionally associated with street crime in urban areas, Left Realism has been used by a small number of scholars to explore a range of rural issues. The theory has influenced, for example, James Windle’s research on opium cultivation in Asia and farm theft in Ireland, and Walter DeKeseredy, Joseph Donnermeyer and Martin Schwartz’s collaborative and individual work on sexual violence against women in rural areas, agricultural crime and rural drug markets. The latter’s body of work advanced Left Realism by employing feminist and masculinity theories, areas original Left Realism failed to sufficiently engage with. The original Left Realists critiqued the critical criminology literature for dismissing that crime disproportionally affects the economically disadvantaged and socially excluded.

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‘Nothing about Us without Us’

The people most impacted by criminal justice policies and practices are seldom included in the decision-making processes that affect their lives.

Building on the ‘nothing about us without us’ social movement, this edited volume advocates an inclusive approach to criminology that gives voice to historically marginalized, silenced, and ignored groups.

Incorporating the experiences of service users, academics, and state and grassroots practitioners, this volume considers how researchers might bridge the gap between theory and lived experience. It furthers criminological scholarship by capturing the voices of marginalized groups and exploring how criminology can authentically incorporate these voices.

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‘Nothing about us without us’ summarizes a burgeoning movement in criminology that is about giving voice to diverse perspectives and a way of doing research. Primarily it refers to the importance of an approach to criminology that is inclusive of those voices that have historically been hushed, marginalized, silenced, or ignored. It also refers to the need for researchers to work with state and grassroots practitioners, especially those who provide a conduit to peoples most impacted by social injustice and crime. This edited volume will explore the importance of diversity and inclusivity in criminological discourses and consider how researchers might bridge the gap between theory and lived experience and how the authenticity of the voices of those who have been silenced can be incorporated into a meaningful criminology. This introductory chapter will explore the conceptual history of ‘nothing about us without us’ before summarizing some of the key themes explored in this volume.

Criminal justice policies are formed through consultation and deliberation between moral entrepreneurs, politicians, and bureaucratic and economic actors (Monaghan, 2011; Windle, 2014, 2018). This, however, often occurs from positions of authority (see Becker, 1963; Stevens, 2020), and those most impacted by such policies are seldom included in decision-making processes (see Joyce & Lynch, 2017; Lynch & Argomaniz, 2017; Askew & Bone, 2019; Leonard & Windle, 2020).

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The main focus of this chapter is to explore personal budgets in health care and the main findings from the national evaluation of the personal health budget pilot programme. This chapter focuses on exploring the initial implementation process during the early stages of the pilot. It goes on to discuss the extent to which the implementation of personal health budgets was in accordance with the policy intentions underlying the initiative (as set by the Department of Health) and how much it had an impact on outcomes and cost-effectiveness for patients with long-term health conditions. The results indicated that implementation adhering to the main underlying principles of personal health budgets had the potential to have a positive impact on outcomes for budget holders and whether they were cost-effective compared to conventional service delivery.

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