The Principles Of Classicist And Positivist Criminology Criminology Essay

Classicist and positivists do share some principles however it can be said that they oppose each other to an extent. Classicist criminology is an approach which looks at the idea of rational action and free will. This approach was developed in the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century whereby they intended to produce a criminal justice system that was clear and legitimate and was based on everyone being equal. Positivist criminology is founded by the notion of scientific understanding of crime and criminality, the basic concept is based on the idea that behaviour is determined. There are two types of positivism that try to seek the explanation of crime and deviancy and they are biological positivism and psychological positivism. The origins of positivism and the two interrelated developments were from the nineteenth century.

This writing will attempt to explain to what extent Classicist and Positivist criminology oppose each other and to explore if they share any similarities with each other. In order to do this, certain factors will be addressed in order to answer this question to see how much they oppose each other and what they share. The factors which will be looked at are where these theories first derived from, human nature of the offender, definition of crime, the focus of analysis, cause of crime, the response to the crime, crime prevention and operation of the criminal justice system.

In the eighteenth century many tried to seek the understanding and would question the natural laws of society. Cesare Beccaria had observed the social contract as being selfish. Believing that law should be limited as much as possible also prohibit actions which would increase instead of decreasing crime. Beccaria had examined administration of criminal justice where he had believed the rights of offenders are protected and torture is forbidden. If for example the victim and accused are in different classes the jury should be equally from both classes. Beccaria’s work was then led on by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) he believed in utilitarianism. He also believed that the society was based on the ideas of pleasure and pain. Beccaria’s principles led to the French code 1791 which classed everyone as not being similar in the court of law i.e. a sane person is different to an insane person.

Bentham’s work was criticised for not seeing criminals as being individuals. Positivism was born. Andre Guerry (1802-1866) examined if poverty was somehow related to crime. Education was also looked at, whether people with learning difficulties were related to crime and deviance. It was also investigated that although crime was higher in wealthy areas the poor were the most to offend. Two strands of scientific research which were attempted to seek explanation for criminal behaviour was biological and psychological. Biological positivism came from the work of Lombroso, whereby he tried to identify different types of individuals. He examined individuals due to their appearances which apparently showed that they were criminals. This was the concept of ‘atavistic criminal’. Psychological positivism emerged in England within the criminal justice institutions. Psychological theories were based on the ideas of the process of the mind in order to understand criminal behaviour.

The history and development behind Classicism and Positivism show that they opposed each other. This could be down to the fact that Classicists came from a less modernised time to Positivists and thus lacked in the opportunity to be able to investigate such views as they didn’t have the sufficient means to do so.

In Classicism, human nature is considered as rational, free and governed by self interest. Human beings are seen to be equal in that they make their own decisions and have free will so therefore able to reason. Classicist criminologists would say the nature of the offender is voluntaristic therefore they make actions on their own accord and they are seen as being responsible for them choosing what they do with their time and also responsible for the consequences that may occur due to their actions. “Although free will may not exist perfectly, the criminal law is mainly based on its presumed vitality and forms the foundation for penal sanction” (Fogel, 1995, pg183)

With positivism, human nature is seen as being determined or prone to certain types of behaviour such as biological and social conditioning and differences with the individual. All individual behaviour is a determined result of circumstances. Positivism say human beings have animal nature which is then socialised into the values within society so that the link from criminal to law abiding citizen in a range or degrees of socialisation.

Both Classicism and Positivism oppose here. Classicism says that human nature is seen as rational and that human beings have the capacity to equally reason and to be able to make their own choices for example they may steal from a shop because they want to and also aware of it, whereas Positivism is determined due to biological and social circumstances for example a person from a criminal family may also become a criminal due to child rearing methods..

The Definition of Crime for classicism is that which goes against society. It is not an effect against the state but against the individuals of the society. Individuals of the society abide by the social contract therefore a criminal act which goes against that society would be regulated through legislation they concentrate heavily on the act and not its surroundings such as the reasons, circumstances and influences. Classicism has the view which is founded by the Anglo Saxon law that individuals are free to do what they like as long as it is not forbidden by law. It is about law and morality concerning the protection of the social contract.

Positivism defines crime using the word deviant as they view crime as violation of legal codes. As something that may be normal behaviour may be a violation of the legal code. However something that is deviant may not be a violation of the legal codes. They take the value of society which can be scientifically taken and from this it is judged as to whether an act is deviant or not.

Classicism defines crime as a violation of the social contract whereby they have free will and self interests and for them to violate the law is breaking the social contract. On the other hand positivism define crime as a violation of the legal code, which in some way is similar to classism as they both define crime as breaching the law.

The focus of analysis for classicism is based on the criminal act. Therefore it doesn’t take into account of the individuals circumstances. So instead of focussing on the individual, they only see what criminal act they have committed and what the best punishment would be in accordance with the law. The main focus would be the criminal act committed.

Positivisms focus of analysis focuses on the offender therefore looks at the offender’s characteristics, rather than the offender’s criminal acts. Offenders can be scientifically monitored and the reasons that lead up to their criminality can be diagnosed and try and be treated or try and be dealt with in some way. It would be the expert’s job to try and spot the reasons as to why the conditions that leads to criminality in a particular case.

Classicism and positivism oppose here as their focus of analysis differ. Classicism looks mainly at the criminal act and how anyone who has committed a crime will be punished based on their actions however positivism focuses on the offender and look at what may have triggered the individual to have turn to deviant and criminal behaviour in the first place.

The whole concept of the ‘Causes of crime’ for the Classicist paradigm is that it links to the question of rational motivation. The cause of crime is said to be due to rationality, individual choice and irrational choice. The consensual majority where there is proper balance due to reason and self interest, the costs of crime outweighs the benefit. Therefore no one should want to commit crime as this would be an irrational calculation. However some occasions there may be have been benefits which were greater than costs and so crime was seen as a rational calculation. Criminality is basically seen as making the wrong choices which violate the law. Individuals are held to blame for their actions.

For positivism the cause of crime is a product of the under socialisation of the individual. This can be a result of number of things such as innate genetic or physiological incapacity of the individual to be easily socialised, family background which is in use of socialisation techniques in child rearing practices. Causes of crime are due to pathology, individual deficiency, it’s not a matter of the individual making their own choice. If a person is from a family which have a criminal member within them then they are considered to be high risk of committing crime. “Every criminal is the result of individual, physical and social conditions”

Classicism and positivism are similar in the sense that they try to identify the causes of crime. However Classicists believe that individuals make their own conscious choices but Positivist believe that individuals subconsciously are led to crime due to their background and other factors and therefore do not commit crime out of choice.

Classicisms response to the crime is punishment. The punishment should be proportionate to the crime. for example if a wealthy women walks out of a shop and is found that she has stolen a pen she should be charged with theft, and if another woman who is poor and walks out of the shop with baby food to feed her child she also should be charged with theft. So therefore classicists would assume that both should be punished for their actions no matter what the circumstances are as people are seen as being capable of being able to make their own choice in what they do so therefore should face the consequences of their actions everyone’s response to crime should be equal.

Rather than being focused towards punishment, Positivists response to crime is treatment towards the offenders. Offender’s behaviours are analysed in terms of factors which may be beyond the control of the person. So therefore in order to respond to crime is to be able to understand the reasons as to why the offender acted in this behaviour. All offenders are different from each other thus treatment is seen to have to be individualised. So if they are sentenced for a crime it shouldn’t be on nature as to which the crime had been committed, it should take into account the diagnosis of the offender and the form of treatment which should be given to the individual.

Classicism and Positivism oppose with each other on the response to crime, classicism focuses on punishing the offender for the crime they have committed whereas positivism focuses on trying to give treatment to the offender and reform, both theories response to crime differ.

In order to prevent crime, classicism has the idea of deterrence. As Beccaria viewed that punishments should be equal to offences, to defer criminals from re-offending. Jeremy Bentham assumed that society is based on the notions of pain and pleasure. If the crime is committed and the punishment is more painful therefore the amount of pleasure that is received will prevent the crime, this was based on Bentham’s ‘moral Formula’. Bentham believed that condemning someone’s actions is more useful than physically harming them.

Positivism on the other hand tries to diagnose and classify. They have the idea of early intervention. Individuals learn not to offend when they gain self control, those who do offend don’t have self control therefore are likely to control. Child rearing is seen to be a important development in having the ability to have self control which was argued by Gottfredson and Hirschi from the control theory. Poor child rearing methods which involve lack of supervision from parents lead to individuals with low self control which then could turn into them becoming offenders in the future.

The way classicism and positivism deal with crime prevention is seen as a similarity, even though both approaches are different, they both try to establish a way to reduce crime. Classicism tries to reduce crime with deterrence and Positivism tries to reduce crime with treatment. The classicist way is to punish in order to deter others whereas positivists try to prevent the crime from occurring from the outset.

The classical approach on the operation of the criminal justice system is to take a legal-philosophical approach. The criminal justice system looks at just the criminal act. The rule of law says that each violation of law that has been breached should be treated in the same way. The main aim of the legal proceedings is equality where everyone is seen equal in the eyes of the law. Classicism shows the importance of the clarity in giving a offender a sentencing, the offender should receive a sentencing that ensures the pain from the sentence outweighs the gain from the offence.

Positivists take a scientific approach. As offenders are all different and individual, they can be somehow measured and classified in some way. Instead of seeing people in terms of equal rights positivist view emphasises difference. Therefore they can be scientifically studied focusing on areas where there is a high crime rate and low social economy.

Classicism take a very different approach as to the operation of the criminal justice system as they take a legal philosophical approach whereby the criminal justice system looks at the criminal act instead of the person who actually committed the crime which differs with the notions of positivism as they take a scientific approach and believe all individuals are different and shouldn’t be sentenced based on what criminal act they had committed because there may be factors which may have led to their criminality.

Classicism and Positivism are both very influential theories that relate to crime and deviance. We see both approaches in dealing with crime in modern times. Punishment, to punish offenders and deter, and reform methods and education to prevent the crime from happening. Classicism exemplifies its notions through the enlightenment and positivism through moral statistics. They both are very different and therefore oppose and differ on many factors though they do share some similarities. To conclude, the main difference between classism and positivism is that classicists look at punishment and positivism looks at treatment and causes of crime. However one of the main similarities between them is that they both look for causes of crime and have ideas in reducing crime but they have very different views in ways to achieve that result. Classicism and positivism oppose each other to quite an extent, they have some similarities however the amount the both oppose is a lot higher.

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