Classicist And Positivist Criminology Essay

588 words - 3 pages

Compare and contrast classicist and positivist criminology.
Classical Criminology was developed in late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. One of the finding fathers of this approach was the Italian philosopher Cesare Baccaria. In 1764, Baccaria published his work On Crime and Punishment in which he protested against often cruel and harsh punishments, based upon the infliction of pain and suffering and appears to propose introduction of new legal system which will be reasonably fair and transparent. Classical criminology suggested that all humans are rational beings and their actions can be understood as “freewill” and crime can be regarded as an irrational judgement. Classicism assumes that people weigh up the cost and benefits of their crimes before they commit them. The focus of classical criminology was based only on the offence not on the individual, all people were treated as alike, judging seriousness of a crime ...view middle of the document...


Positivism links to biological, psychological and sociological studies which attempt to identify key causes of crime, by using scientific research method. The main causes of crime according to positivists lie largely outside of each individual’s control, whether genetic, psychological, sociological or economic. In that case crime is no longer viewed as self-determining and rather than only punish offenders, criminal justice system begins to see the need of treatment for criminals.
Positivist criminology is often seen as an opposite of classical theory, which in contrast to classicism promotes the scientific study of crime, and replaces philosophical judgment and opinion with analytically grounded facts and science to find causes of crime. Findings of positivistic research are presented as ‘causal factors’ of crime, largely regarded as outside the individuals’ control. Therefore positivism can tend to regard criminality as pre-determined rather than chosen like it is argued in classicism. Furthermore, psychologists working within positivistic framework suggest that there is separate individual explanation in term of personality characteristics which might predispose people to commit crimes; in contrast classicism maintains that although hedonistic, pleasure-seeking principles lead to crime.
On the other hand, not only classicism but also positivism use prisons as a primary form of punishment which for classicism should act as a deterrent and time which offender will spend in the prison should fit the offence. While Positivist argue that treatment can assist in preventing further offending and should be tailored to fit the specific needs of the offender.
To sum up both theories that have been presented in this short essay have significant differences but together they can provide some good explanations for crime and criminals and develop more sceptical point of view about causes of crime. The focus of classical criminology on rational punishment meant that it did not provide a full analysis of the causes of crime and positivism have made an complement to whole study of crime by empirical research.

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