After a century of criminological theory, why does crime still exist

Topics: Crime, Sociology, Criminology Pages: 6 (1816 words) Published: October 13, 2013
Introduction:
After more than a century of criminological theory, a central question remains: why does crime still exist? To answer this question one must first come to a clear definition as to what crime actually means. In essence crime can be considered a social concept; a specific word attributes an individual to a particularly undesirable group. This allocations is based upon an event; some sort of wrong-doing or deviance from the norm which results in social, physical, mental, property or financial harm. The fact is, there is no singular definition to crime- there are multiple views and opinions yet none stands as a concrete definition. From a formally legal perspective, crime can be defined as by the state; that is if a specific act is defined by criminal law and is subject to punishment than it can be considered a crime. Conversely from a labelling perspective, crime can only exist if a particular event has resulted in a social response. It is this social response which instigates the criminal label and thus if there is no label, there is no crime. The ambiguity in the definition of crime alone provides grounds for its continuous existence. After all it seems only logical that we cannot rid of something that is not universally agreed upon. In attempts to unveil the cloak of criminality, various theories have been put forward which seek to clarify what is unclear. Of particular interest is the classical approach to crime and the idea of positivism and individualist behaviour. The classical theory of criminality locates the source of criminality within the individual and describes it as a rational choice (Gottfredson and Hirschi 1990). Positivism on the other hand emphasises causation and determinism, it focuses on both the external and internal factors which drive individual behaviour (Gottfredson and Hirschi 1990). Both of these theories hold opposing views about the causations of crime however they both seek to give reason to the existence of criminal behaviour. By focusing on these theories we may receive some clarity as to why crime still exists. Classical Theory:

According to the classical theory criminality is seen to be derived from the individual and their ability to reason. This theory encapsulates crime as a matter of choice and intent on the part of the offender. Due to crime being represented as a choice of the offender, responsibility for that crime is thus attributed solely to the individual. Classical theory views all individuals as having equal opportunity to reason and be rational thus making us accountable for our actions. The basis of such a view stems from the assumption that there is general consensus among members of society; individuals surrender particular rights to state in exchange for its protection thus forming a social contract. Because we are all viewed as having equal opportunity to reason, the classical view holds that any rules or laws developed by consensus should be viewed as reasonable and binding to all; this is the social contract. The classical theory thereby defines criminality as someone who acts irrationally or makes a bad choice which violates the social contract. The two leading figures behind the development of the classical theory are Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham. According to Beccaria (1764) and Bentham (1970) the basis of all social action should be viewed as the utilitarian concept which results in the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people in society. Beccaria stated that crime should be considered as an injury to society as a whole and as such punishment should be used as a deterrent. This concept alone is the core is the core policy classical theory adopts when responding to crime; deterrence. Punishment is in essence the force which maintains the existence of a social contract between the state and individual (Carlsmith and Darley 2002). Classical theory states that all crimes should be associated with some sort of punishment. However the...
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