The Rational Choice Theory

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La’Shante Samuels
Kaplan University, CJ102 Criminology
Unit Five Midterm Project

The Rational Choice theory approach has been used by social and political scientists to put some type of meaning of why humans behave in a certain way. In recent years, rational choice theory has been widely used in other disciplines such as sociology, political science, and anthropology. It has gained influence in politics and sociology over the past thirty years. This choice theory stressed the role of knowledgeable self interest in the decision making of individuals. The main purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of Rational Choice and Deterrence theories, to explain the similarities and difference between the two. The concept of Rational Choice was developed and rooted in the early classical theory approach. This approach was refined by Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham whose path positively influenced the criminal justice system in England and the United States. This system was influenced for more than 100 years and by the end of the nineteenth century, the popularity of the classical approach began to decline (criminology the core, Larry Siegel). Beccaria believed that criminal decisions were based on a few simple factors, being that humans have free will ( they have the power to act upon their own accord); humans are rational creatures and able to weigh prospective outcomes of their actions, seeing which may benefit or detract from the quality of their lives; human decisions are based on the simplest views of man ( primarily, pleasure is preferable over pain); finally that an organized system of laws and punishments which catered to these human traits is necessary to help keep society complaint (Winfree & Abadinsky,2003). Later in the 1960s Gary Becker argued that with the exception of a mentally ill individual who may commit a crime, people way out there pros and cons before committing the act of breaking the law. They may engaged in a cost benefit analysis of the crime, weighing out what they expect to gain against the risk they must undergo and the costs they may incur, such as prison time (criminology the core, Larry Siegel). Rational Choice Theory generally began with consideration of the choice behavior of one or more individual decision making units; choice can be controlled through the perception and understanding of the potential pain or punishment that will follow an act judged to be in violation of the social good and the social contract. Control theory is referred to a person’s decision making based on their rewards and or punishment. Travis Hirschi who is a control theorist highlights that the cost of deviant behavior depends in essential ways on what you have to lose, or what he calls “stake in conformity,” and the most important part of the stake in conformity is what Hirschi called the social bond ( The social bond consists of four dimensions which include attachments, commitments, involvement, and belief. Hirschi states that out of the four dimensions belief is the least important because he argues that we all share the same moral beliefs and we are all familiar with guilt, which happens when we act against our beliefs. Deterrence, as it has become known by the criminal justice system, is not a new concept, and has been used throughout the history of man in various facts. The earliest know example of Deterrence as it relates to crime and punishment is the Code of Hammurabi. This ancient text was the first of its kinds, a document set forth by a ruling party which categorized crimes and their corresponding punishments. This code, carved upon a large stone slab and placed in public view, was intended to educate members of society on what is expected of their conduct and what would happen should they violate those expectations (King, 1998). The code of Hammurabi also made it clear that ignorance of the law is no excuse for its breaking, another step along the path of crime deterrence....
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