Essay: Beccaria Lombroso and Durkheim's Impacts on Criminology

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Criminal Justice Contributions Three Theorists

The Contributions of Durkheim to Criminal Justice

Durkheim was a proponent of the functionalist school of thought, according to which criminality, like all other aspects of deviant human behavior, serve a purpose (i.e. function) in society (Akers & Sellers, 2004). Durkheim suggested that one of the most important functions of crime and deviance in society is that they help establish, maintain, and promote the collective or mainstream values of society and that they reinforce the "social conscience" within the lines between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Whereas other approaches to crime focus on the affect of punishment on offenders, Durkheim's focus was on the beneficial effects of punishing offenders on the rest of society. In that regard, Durkheim viewed the principal value of penal law as the awareness of non-offenders of the consequences of violating established societal rules (Akers & Sellers, 2004). In contemporary terms, Durkheim would have been considered a proponent of a deterrent approach to crime in society and his writings obviously contributed to the growth of that perspective.

Durkheim shared the view of some of his contemporaries (such as Beccaria) in that he subscribed to the autonomous or rational purpose motivation for crime on the level of the individual offender (Schmalleger, 2009). Specifically, whereas other theorists believed that the main value of punishment was to deter individuals from making choices against their rational interests, Durkheim took a much more global position, viewing the most important function of punishing individuals as the reinforcement that the process of punishment for crime had on maintaining the social values of the entire community in the broader sense (Schmalleger, 2009)

The Contributions of Beccaria to Criminal Justice

Beccaria famously opposed the prevailing approach to rely on harsh penal consequences used to punish crime in his era. He detailed his ideas in his Essays on Crimes and Punishment whose principal thesis was that contemporary methods of criminal punishment were unjust and ineffective, partly because they were excessively harsh (Schmalleger, 2009). Beccaria was philosophically opposed to very concept of retributive punishment which he viewed as manifestations of cruelty that served no productive purpose for the offender or for society.

Like Durkheim, Beccaria valued the concept of deterrence; unlike Durkheim, Beccaria took a more direct, individual-offender-oriented interpretation of the purpose and value of punishment as a deterrent. Specifically, whereas Durkheim emphasized the role of punishment in deterring deviance more generally in society, Beccaria argued that punishment (and the awareness of punishment as the consequences of criminality) deterred individuals from making choices to perpetrate crime on a case-by-case basis (Akers & Sellers, 2004). Therefore, Beccaria promoted punishment… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

Beccaria Lombroso and Durkheim's Impacts on Criminology.  (2011, December 17).  Retrieved December 8, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Beccaria Lombroso and Durkheim's Impacts on Criminology."  17 December 2011.  Web.  8 December 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Beccaria Lombroso and Durkheim's Impacts on Criminology."  December 17, 2011.  Accessed December 8, 2019.