Origins of Modern Criminology: Classical versus Positive Theory Essay

Origins of Modern Criminology: Classical versus Positive Theory Essay

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By definition criminology is the scientific study of crime as a social phenomenon involving criminals and penal treatment. The origins of criminology are rooted in the 1700s when society believed that crime was a result of supernatural forces. This demonic perspective supported the idea that temptation brought out evil forces in an individual (Cullen & Agnew, 2011, p. 21). Once possessed, a person was lured into sinful behavior. Such beliefs were prevalent and accepted due to the strong connection between the government and religion in implementing rules. In the 1800s, Cesare Beccaria and Cesare Lombroso set out to challenge this ideal by proposing two new, radical approaches. Beccaria introduced the classical theory of criminology emphasizing behavior while Lombroso presented his positive school of criminological thought emphasizing science to explain crime. As classical criminologists they based their critiques on their personal speculations as well as the work of other leading figures at the time. Ultimately, classical and positive theories of criminology can be compared and contrasted through their philosophical foundations, assumptions and policy implications. When comparing Beccaria and Lombroso’s theories, their ideas are similar because they reject the demonic perspective and stress alternative explanations. However, both theories are contrastable because Beccaria pursues the behavioral route while Lombroso relies on the scientific aspect to explain crime in society. In essence, both theories help guide the analysis and understanding of crime.
Comparison- philosophical foundations
Classical theory in criminology is centered on the philosophical foundation of Cesare Beccaria, Thomas Hobbes and Jeremy Bentham. Beccaria i...


... middle of paper ...


...attempts to treat and cure criminals. Regardless the approach, Classical Theory and Modern/Positive School findings facilitate the overall study and understanding of crime today.



Works Cited

Cullen, F. T., & Agnew, R. (2011). In Search for the Criminal "Man". Criminological theory: past to present: essential readings (4th ed., pp. 21-31). London: Oxford University Press.
Fischer, R. G. (Director) (2011, September 15). European History. Corrections: Theory, Policy and Practice. Lecture conducted from California State University Long Beach.
Grant, H. B., & Terry, K. J. (2012). Law Enforcement and the Law. Law enforcement in the 21st century (3rd ed., p. 66). Columbus: Pearson.
Schug, R. A. (Director) (2011, September 7). Historical Context of Criminological Theory. Criminological Theory. Lecture conducted from California State University Long Beach.

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