Scholars have supported classical theory as the best descriptive model of crime. This paper makes a comparison to different theories of crime in comparison with the classical theory of crime with intent to arrive at a position in support or against the stance of these other scholars, that classical theory is the best descriptive model of crime.
Classical Theory, which developed in the mid 18th century, was based on utilitarian philosophy. Cesare Beccaria, author of On Crimes and Punishments (1763–64), Jeremy Bentham, inventor of the panopticon, and other classical school philosophers argued that people have free will to choose how to act; that deterrence is based upon the notion of the human being as a 'hedonist' who seeks pleasure and avoids pain, and a 'rational calculator' weighing up the costs and benefits of the consequences of each action; that punishment (of sufficient severity) can deter people from crime, as the costs (penalties) outweigh benefits, and that severity of punishment should be proportionate to the crime. Classical theory ignores the possibility of irrationality and unconscious drives as motivational factors. Positivist Theory - presumes that criminal behavior is caused by internal and external factors outside of the individual's control. Positivism can be broken up into three segments which include biological, psychological and social positivism. Lombroso, an Italian prison doctor sometimes regarded as the "father" of criminology, was one of the largest contributors to biological positivism. Lombroso’s work suggested that physiological traits such as the measurements of one's cheek bones or hairline, or a cleft palate, considered to be throwbacks to Neanderthal man, were indicative of "atavistic" criminal tendencies. Enrico Ferri, a student of Lombroso, believed that social as well as biological factors played a role, and held the view that criminals should not be held responsible when factors causing their criminality were beyond their control. Adolphe Quetelet made use of data and statistical analysis to gain insight into relationship between crime and sociological factors. He found that age, gender, poverty, education, and alcohol consumption were important factors related to crime. Criminologists have since rejected Lombroso's biological theories, due to lack of wide range statistical data from which he drew the inferences (with control groups not used in his studies). Differential Association/ Social Learning (Sub cultural) Theory –asserts that Crime is learned through association. As formulated by Sutherland(1947), the theory postulates that “one commits criminal acts because his accepted “definitions” of law as something to violate are in “excess” of his accepted definitions of the law as sometimes that can, must or should be obeyed”(quoted in Akers 1977, p.40). Sutherland’s theory has been thoroughly explicated by Cressey (in Sutherland and Cressey 1978) and has been expanded on by Akers (1977) and Burgess and Akers (1966) with conceptualizations from operant conditioning theory(skinner 1953; Whaley and Malott 1969).The criminal acts learned might be generally condoning criminal conduct or be justifying crime only under specific circumstances. Interacting with antisocial peers is a major cause of crime. Criminal behavior will be repeated and become chronic if reinforced. When criminal subcultures exist, many individuals can learn associatively to commit crime and crime rates may increase in those specific locations. Other researchers suggested an added social-psychological link. Edwin Sutherland suggested that people learn criminal behavior from older, more experienced criminals that they may associate with. However, Learning theory does not situate its process in a larger social structure context that would give it specific form and probabilities for patterns of content. Strain Theory is based on the assumption that goals which are desirable by middle-class standards are shared throughout...
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