• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Discuss, critically evaluating the ways in which positivist ideas have found expression in explanations of crime and criminality.

Extracts from this document...


FOR THE ATTENTION OF PROFESSOR ADAM CRAWFORD 'The positivist method leads to the categorisation and differentiation of criminal types without end. It also tends to treat people as lacking free will, as they are perceived as destined to criminality by some prior factor or characteristic.' Discuss, critically evaluating the ways in which positivist ideas have found expression in explanations of crime and criminality. Over the years, the ideas and theories of criminologists have developed and as new theories have emerged, those surrounding the causes of crime have been widely studied. Early criminologists adopted a classical gaze, focusing on the crime committed as opposed to the criminal committing it. Beccaria and Bentham were two key role players in the eighteenth century, believing that everyone acts out of their own free will and that most crime is an exploitation of opportunity. They believed in deterrence and that clear laws should be set down so that everyone knew the consequences which would befall them were they to commit a certain crime. The theory was that human beings wished to avoid pain and loss in the pursuit of pleasure and profit and therefore, in order to deter committal of a crime, the punishment (pain) should outweigh the pleasure and gain of committing the crime. Classicism places certain crimes into certain categories and believes very much that human beings have the same free will and therefore the same choices of whether or not to commit a crime. ...read more.


Because of his seemingly reliable classification system, Lombroso often got called to testify at trials. S.J. Gould said of Lombroso's testimonies "...we cannot know how many men were condemned unjustly because they were extensively tattooed, failed to blush of had unusually large jaws or arms."1 This seems to be one of the more substantial arguments against scientific criminology. The fact that some people who have the characteristics associated with criminal deviance will overcome their natural criminal tendencies and be able to live normal lives should not go unnoticed. The argument here is that not everyone who shares the 'criminal' characteristics set down by Lombroso should immediately be classified in the same way. For example, in the early twentieth century a pupil of Lombroso's named Garofalo was involved with an American movement which took it upon themselves to sterilise thousands of society's deviants in order to prevent them from reproducing and bringing children who may share the same 'criminal' genes into the world. Although this is an extreme case of eugenics, it sparks the idea that in some cases, scientific criminology has been used in an immoral way, depriving people of basic human rights which even if these people are criminals, they are nevertheless entitled to. If Lombroso's theory that criminals are born bad is to be believed, then it could be said that people with criminal tendencies are in the same way mentally incapacitated. ...read more.


They also discovered that crime rates are higher in areas with social problems. These findings are important in the way we deal with crime today. Being able to pinpoint where criminal problems lie and do something about them is invaluable to the smoother running of a society. Also, the correlation between crime rates and social problems means that it is possible to tackle these problems by building new facilities for example, and therefore hopefully lowering crime rates. The positivist school of thought has helped society a great deal by laying out certain points, characteristics and patterns which should be looked for when dealing with and attempting to explain crime and criminality. The logic behind the theories gives clear, thought out analysis to what would otherwise be a society where the problem of crime is dealt with in a classical way, paying no attention to the root of the problem and heading straight for punishment instead of a cure for delinquency. Thanks to scientists such as Lombroso and Durkheim we can try and explain why criminals offend and why certain areas of a city or country have higher crime rates than others and although no one criminologist has come up with a faultless theory as to how we should best deal with crime, a combination of scientific and sociological positivist criminology is helping us to learn new techniques in crime prevention and the positive rehabilitation of offenders. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Crime & Deviance section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Crime & Deviance essays

  1. Sociological Theories on Crime and Deviance

    Rational choice theory assumes individuals have free will and the power of reason. A rational choice theorist such as Ron Clarke (1980) argues the decision to commit crime is a choice based on a rational calculation of the likely consequences.

  2. Assess The Contribution Of Control Theory To Our Understanding Of Crime And Criminality

    Bentham described four general sources of pleasure and pain, or sanction systems: physical, political, moral and religious. Bentham used these four sanction elements to write a foundation for reforms of the criminal law and public crime control policy. Bentham eventually focused on the political sanctions and his work as well

  1. How does positive criminology differ from classical criminology in its approach to understanding criminology ...

    This book was his first attempt in showing a systematic logical and consistent penal system. Unlike many of the previous theorists, Cesear Beccaria believed that criminals owed a debt to society. He believed and proposed that the punishment should be fixed strictly in proportion to the seriousness of the crime that they had commited.

  2. Describe what Psychologists have found out about crime-victim interaction.

    Cumberbatch (1998) estimated that in a single year the average person would be exposed to 7000 crimes through the media, including fictional crimes from films and TV, which is a very unreal indication the level a crime anyone will experience personally in a year.

  1. What are the key differences between positivism and classicist approaches to crime control? Which ...

    There are numerous drawbacks to the theory such as the issue of equality and poverty.

  2. Critically Discuss Some of the Problems Associated With the Measurement of Crime.

    An example may be a prostitute who had been raped. These cases would not be recorded. If there is a busy period it may simply be overlooked. One of the main reasons that the statistics will be inaccurate is that they do not take into account policing itself.

  1. The Classical School of Criminology

    Severity is the kind of punishment the offender is likely to receive. Certainty is the likelihood of the offender being punished. Some argue that the likelihood of being punished is more significant than the kind of punishment likely to be received (Sacco & Kennedy, 1998, p.131)-in fact, if certainty is high, severity can be lower.

  2. Assess the right realist view that crime is the result of biological rational factors ...

    However there are disagreements, as its view that criminals are rational actors freely choosing crime conflicts with its view that their behaviour is determined by biological and socialisation. It also over-emphasises biological factors, for example, according to Lilly, IQ differences account for less than 3 percent of differences in offending.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work