Classicism Versus Positivism

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Two criminological approaches that have the origin in contemporary criminology are classicism and positivism. Classicism has the origin in the eighteenth century and positivism in the nineteenth. Both, the classical and the positivism theory are expanded in the past with their own roots, but in today criminal justice system are still alive. Classicism was first developed by Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham, two famous writers which propose in their works that both law and administration of justice should be based on rationality and human rights. Cesare Beccaria’s concept of punishment is that “punishment should fit the crime. Criminals are seen to owe a ‘debt’ to society and punishment should be fixed strictly in proportion to the seriousness of the crime.” (Beccaria, 1974 cited in Burke, 2001, p. 27) and Jeremy Bentham greatest principle was “the greatest happiness for the greatest number, he felt that punishments should be calculated to inflict pain in direct proportion to the damage done to the public interest. ” (Criminology a social introduction, second edition, p.56) Positivism or ‘the science of crime’ was first developed by Cesare Lambroso in the late nineteenth century. He is the founder of modern criminology and he is known for his notion of the ‘atavistic criminal’ (Taylor et all, 1973, p.41) and he described criminals as “atavistic, a throwback to an earlier form of evolutionary life” (Taylor et all, 1973, p.41). Cesare Lambroso defined them into five main categories: born criminals, epileptics, insane criminals, occasional criminals and criminals of passion. (Lecture 3) “Positivism within criminology has been enormously influential and comes for substantive and sustained criticism. Critics of individual positivism such as David Matza (1964) argue that it draws on three problematic sets of assumptions (Tierney, 1996): determinism, differentiation and pathology. ” (Criminology, Tim Newburn, p.128) Firstly both criminological approaches have...
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