Essay: Criminology Comparison of the Classical

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[. . .] Hence, the notion of 'free will" as suggested by the classical criminologists shows how it is quite necessary to ensure the smooth and efficient integration of the society rather than it falling apart due to the acts and behavior of some (Samenow, pg 20-22). The underlying basis of their argument is that the functioning of the human mind and their decision making ability is what influences their behavior and thus, criminal acts.

The basic motivation to go ahead and commit an act of crime is connected to the internal instincts of a person, the desires, conscience, the dominating factor of anger, rage, jealousy, frustration which leads to the person committing the act. It also shows how well the person can control the inner feelings and drives to think morally and act on the basis of rights and wrongs of a society. There are different elements that make up the motivation drive which are desire, opportunities, optimism, and the ability to analyze things as they are. The dual processes in one's mind merge and transform into the outer expressions and exploitation behaviors. The classical criminologists focus purely on the inherent motivation that the criminal feels and then implements.

The classical criminologists state that people commit crimes as part of their individual gain and their selfish desires. Their minds function in a way as to create a logic that the world is a cruel and insensitive place where everyone is selfish and hence keeping that in mind, they act accordingly. The criminals then take full advantage of their circumstances as well as their opportunities to carry out their interests which go against the social and legal norms. The criminal victimizes the others around him or herself and inflicts pain upon them without accepting and adhering to the social norms or responsibility.

The Positivist Approach:

The positivist criminologists take up a scientific approach to deal with crime and its implications. They reason out the causes of crime scientifically and assess the level of intelligence that an individual possesses in order to analyze just how successful the running of the society really is. Two famous criminologists which take up the positivist approach are Eugene McLaughlin and John Muncie (2006). They go on to define positivism as "a theoretical perspective which sees crime as arising from biological and psychological factors which lie inside the human being." The positivist approach relies on searching, exploring, explaining and possibly predicting what kinds of patterns will be followed by the criminal and what kind of behavior will be taken up based on their biological conditions and the person's own characteristics (Mclaughlin, 2007). The positivists take up these factors to determine and identify the root causes of criminal acts.

Cessare Lombroso, a well-known follower of the positivist school of criminology based all his findings and studies on the scientific element which was clearly inspired by Charles Darwin's theory of The Evolution of Man. He focused on creating hypothesis and testing human behavior through experiments, be it biological or any psychological factor. According to Lombroso's beliefs, science can be proving anything and everything with the help of experiments and hence, these techniques are used here to get to the bottom of the causes and factors contributing to the criminal behavior of individuals. Positivists therefore use the help of science to explain their theories of crime (Young, 2003).

Whereby the basis of the Classical criminologists is the notion of free will, the positivists on the other hand disregard this idea completely and they suggest that the behavior and actions of the humans can be predefined and planned out on the basis of their own personal factors and reasons or maybe on the basis of some biological reasons. The criminologists, C. Cole and Norris (2000) suggest that even though humans are given free will, it is too simplistic to suggest that criminal acts can be defined and explained purely on the basis of their will. In his attempt to define and explain the whole theory of criminology, Lombroso attempts to scientifically prove that certain individuals are prone to committing crimes due to their biological factors and because they are physically born with certain differences. It may be an unusual way to put it but Lombroso suggested that in a way there are some evolutions in man that make it impossible for him or her to go ahead and commit crimes where as the others have it in them to go towards that track (Coleman and Norris, 2000).

Lombroso believed that the criminals had in born instincts in them which made them prone to committing crimes and he described these as "atavistic" i.e. those who are likely to have an innate ability to commit an act of crime. A research that he conducted on the criminals suggested that all the criminals had some kind of deformity in them biologically which signified that such people were not quite normal and had a stronger body mass or maybe some other difference which made them prone to get involved in such activities (White and Haines, 2008). He also went ahead to say that the scientific researches prove that men are many times more likely to commit crimes than women and this is due to the social as well as biological differences that they are born with.

The theory of individual positivism defines exactly what Lombroso suggests about the physical deformities of the criminals. The inherent or innate instincts or tendencies to harm someone and inflict pain are present in the individual and the individual positivist approach lays a lot of emphasis on the need to stop punishing and treating these criminals because this is something they were born with and do not get involved in it based on individual or free will and choice. Surveys have shown results whereby the criminals have larger heads, an extra finger, joint eye brows, more muscular bodies, etc. And thus these become more evident later in life and these can be clearly identified as well.

The suggestions made by Coleman and Norris (2000) state that if these abnormalities are identified and the distinct characteristics are considered, it may help the crime control agencies to better deal with and find ways to counter the crimes.

The common ground between the classical and positivist schools:

Although with the analysis above, we can clearly see that there is not much in common between the two schools of criminological thought, we can still derive something that may be similar in their approach. The basis of their studies is the same which is the factors that contribute to the individuals committing criminal acts. Both the perspectives start off with their arguments and foundation as a need to identify the reasons why a person would indulge in criminal acts. Although both of them drift off in their suggestions in whether free will has any influence in it or not, their starting point remains to be the same. Secondly, both the perspectives also identify the criminal act as a social evil and a phenomenon that needs to be dealt with. Their approach towards implementing punishments may be different but both sides do suggest the ways in which this should be dealt with and minimized in society as it harms the society as a whole.


Coleman, C. & Norris, C 2000. Introducing Criminology (Cullompton: Willan Publishing) Pg91

Downes, D. & Rock, P 2007. Understanding Deviance (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Jeffery, C.R. 1971. Prevention through Environmental Design, (Beverly Hills: Sage

Publications), page 24 Article Source:

McLaughlin, E. et al. 2007. Criminological Perspectives, 2nd ed, (Sage) Pg. 77

McLaughlin, E. & Muncie, J 2006. Sage Dictionary of Criminology, 2nd ed., (Sage) Pg.54

Morrison, W 1997. Theoretical Criminology (London: Butterworths) Pg. 72

Samenow, E.S. 1984. Inside the Criminal Mind, (New York: Crown Business), pgs. 20-22

Article Source:

Schmalleger, F. 2006. Criminology Today - An Integrative Introduction - Fourth Edition Pg120

Tierney, J. 2009. Key Perspectives in Criminology (McGraw Hill: Oxford University Press) Pg. 231-236

White, R. &… [END OF PREVIEW]

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