Italian Positivism and Classical Criminology

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Access Criminology, Unit 1
‘Critically evaluate the assumptions and claims of early classical and Italian positivist criminology’. Aims and objective of this essay
During this essay I aim to critically evaluate the two schools of thinking, evaluate the assumptions and claims of early classical criminology and Italian positivist criminology. I am going to do this firstly by evaluating each school, Classical criminology and Italian positivist criminology and explaining the difference’s , strengths and weaknesses between both theory’s.

Introduction
The school of classical criminology differs significantly from the thinking demonstrated under the positivist approach to crime. Classical criminology has its origins in the concepts of free will, individual decision-making and the benefits of society to the individual. The school addresses the problem of crime using punishment and deterrent actions. On the other hand, positivism rejects the concept of the individual and free will and instead embraces the idea of enduring evolutionary traits that define a basic criminal personality, and which can be assessed using scientific methods. The two perspectives, though very different (and even contradictory) in nature, both provide the basis for a cohesive overall approach to addressing the problem of crime as a wide variety of approaches are incorporated Classical School of criminology

Classical criminology refers to the idea that criminals act upon their own free will and decisions were based on ‘Hedonism’ (the pleasure plain principle). There are 2 names that appear most common when discussing classical criminology Jeremy Bentham and Cesare Beccaria. They were considered two of the most important enlightenment thinkers in this particular area. They both came from very different philosophical positions but sought after the same idea, to limit the barbarity of the 18th century systems of justice. It was Beccaria that implemented the idea of criminals acting upon free will and hedonism, Beccaria argued that Human’s rationally choose actions that will bring them pleasure and avoid actions that will bring them pain, the person who chooses to commit a crime, therefore, deserves to be punished because they chose to freely commit a wrongful act. Beccaria also believed that the degree of punishment assigned to a crime should be painful enough to outweigh any pleasure that would be derived from committing the crime in the first place. Beccaria was basically saying the punishment should ‘Fit the Crime’. Beccaria’s contribution to concept of justice was that the law should be impartial – all people are equal in the eye’s of the law, also that judge’s are instruments of the law, they are only to determine a person’s innocence or guilt and to impose the penalties that are prescribed by the law. HANDOUT HISTORICAL PREDECESSORS TO 20TH-CENTURY CRIMINOLOGY. STEVE 2008. Bentham and Beccaria believed in the same theories such as the theory of ‘hedonism’ the idea that human behaviour is generally directed at avoiding pain and maximising pleasure, and felt that individuals broke the law in order to gain excitement, money, sex, or something else that was of particular value, also the idea of a “social contract” where we give up some of our freedom for security and to commit a crime would be breaking this contract. And utilitarianism – promoting the greatest possible good for the greatest possible number. However there were some differences between Bentham and Beccaria for instance, they both rejected the death penalty, however Bentham did argue that it could be used in such cases of murder, his point of argument was that in almost all cases its negative consequence would outweigh any positive ones that might ensue. TIM NEWBURN, CRIMINOLOGY (2005) WILLAN PUBLISHING - DEVON. Bentham also argued, in contrast to Beccaria, that increased penalties for recidivist (repeat) offenders were to be justified because of the potential offences committed by...
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