Free Essay Sample on Contrasting Assumptions of Classical and Positive Criminology

Published: 2023-11-10
Free Essay Sample on Contrasting Assumptions of Classical and Positive Criminology
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  History Criminal law Philosophy Genetics
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1607 words
14 min read


Crime in its different forms, including violent and subtle ones, has intractably evolved with civilizations. Various philosophical schools have developed in an attempt to conceptualize what motivates individuals to indulge in crime. Different fields, including sociology, psychology, economics, and several other branches of social science, have also developed in lieu. However, two primary questions about the etiology of crime are whether it is caused solely by nature or nature and nurture. Positivist criminology derives from the notion that crime results from both hereditary and environmental factors. In the positivist concept of crime, genetic and environmental factors predispose an individual to criminal behavior. Positivist criminology is a biosocial approach to science which takes into account the fact that both genes and environment have a role to play in defining criminological etymology

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Classical criminology, an 18th-century ideology developed by Cesare Beccaria, has an underlying proposition that crime prevention is better than punishing it. It provides the hallmark of deterrence in which mechanisms that enforce restraint are employed in any crime (Bruni & Porta, 2014). For instance, where a manager betrays a fiduciary duty such as illegally gaining from a corporate cheque, existing criminal laws will safeguard against such crimes by prescribing punishment equivalent to the amount of loss caused. Because laws are already in place and the manager is aware, this institutionalizes deterrence. The classicist ideology considers that crimes are voluntarily committed by individuals intending to fulfill shellfish interests.

Key Proposition

A key proposition of the classical theory of crime is that punishment should equal the crime at any time (Brown & Esbensen, 2010). For instance, the same form of crime an individual has committed should be meted. Its assertions demystify the highest level of vengeful approach to crime. In classical criminology, an individual alleged to have committed homicide should also be murdered. This framework approach bases on the assumption that when someone contemplates committing a crime, he or she first stops to think that they too will get similar punishment. In essence, the classical theory assumes that the criminal exercises freewill to commit a crime or not based on their anticipated consequences (Brown & Esbensen, 2010).

The classical presupposition is that crime is a choice. This conception resonates with a situation in which individuals indulge in drug use when they believe the reward in terms of feeling exceeds the negative health effects. Implicit to this assumption is that the person committing a crime is not only rational but also overly aware of everything about it (Bruni & Porta, 2014). Being a choice, the criminal has to accept the sanctions that come with whatever they have done irrespective of how harsh or inhumane it may be. According to this theory, when the individual offender already knows that a punishment similar to their crime is inevitable, they will not offend (Brown & Esbensen, 2010). Effectively, other people who may be tempted to commit the same crime would restrain from it. Classical theorists believed that people would not commit a crime if they knew that the punishment is certain and swift. Imperatively, similar crimes committed by different criminals would result in the same punishment.


According to classicists, no distinctive difference exists between criminals and non-criminal except that one chooses to commit the crime while the other restrains. Classists assume that everyone gets an equal predisposition to committing crimes at any one time, hence no need for individualized sanctions (Brown & Esbensen, 2010). An overriding concept in classical crime theory is the ability of human beings to make rational choices. They assume that before an individual commits a crime, he or she calculates the benefits and costs that such behavior generates before wilfully acting either way (Brown & Esbensen, 2010). Therefore, punishment for crimes is a process of trying to attain the balance between the perceived benefits and costs so that the exercise of freewill conforms to the prescribed deeds. When the offender knows that the results will generate happiness, they tend to act it but restrain if it results in pain.

Conversely, Lombroso’s positivist theory of crime asserts the existence of distinctive uniqueness for every criminal. This means that the punishment given for a crime should be aware of all the underlying forces influencing the commission of the crime. Here, crime is caused by a multiplicity of factors, both natural and environmental (Brown & Esbensen, 2010). For example, an individual may have a natural craving to use drugs, including the prohibited ones. The fact that the existing criminal laws may prevent the handling and use of such drugs will not be adequate in suppressing the constant urge to use the drug. Instead of subjecting such a person to harsh punishment, he should be taken through an elaborate rehabilitation process. Drug rehabilitation would require systematic suppression of the urge over time. The primary concept in positivist criminology is that criminals and non-criminals are not similarly predisposed to it. A biological drug user has a genetic predisposition that cannot be prevented with anticipated harsh punishments. Imperatively, crime is not a rational choice but a manifestation of reinforcing social and biological factors. The positivist criminology is similar to the conception of crime as a biosocial science as opposed to purely social science.


According to positivists, crimes can be innate, and their manifestation may or may not be aided by the environment in which someone lives (Brown & Esbensen, 2010). Two schools of positivism have emerged in an attempt to draw a relationship between the natural predisposition to crime and social risk factors. These schools of thought are individual positivism and sociological positivism. Individual positivists believe in the innate criminality. Innate criminality is whereby an individual is already criminal even without the influence of the social context (Bailey, 2005). Sociological positivism, however, provides that the social situation in which an individual influences their criminality. A typical case of social positivism in action is indulgence in drug use.

Because positivists believe that criminals do not choose to be so, their accountability should not be to the same extent as the crime itself. For instance, no one chooses to be homicidal. Committing homicide is perceived by positivists as a display of innate factors that the criminal does not control (Brown & Esbensen, 2010). Therefore, to prevent crime, the criminal should be rehabilitated to suppress this criminal nature. In essence, positivists contend that there should be no outright punishment for crimes but instead correction. Instead of punishing a criminal based on criminal laws, positivists believe that they should be threatened (Brown & Esbensen, 2010). If someone is a born criminal, the best intervention for positivists is to restrain them by reducing their interaction with the would-be victim. Therefore, imprisonment would work for innate criminals.

Even for the same crime, positivists contend that the driving factors are different. As a result of this, the treatments given to each criminal should always take into account their different conditions. Giving the same form of punishment for a crime, as in classical criminology, amounts to punishment instead of correction (Brown & Esbensen, 2010). Therefore, positivism provides a wide range of ways to deal with offenders, even for the same crimes committed. Through these highly individualized treatments of criminals, they attain rehabilitative development that suits them instead of subjecting them to the same fixed sentences. Positivist criminology appreciates that sociological, psychological, and biological factors influence criminality to a varying degree. According to Cesare Lombroso, offenders’ behavior is influenced by heritable makeup (Brown & Esbensen, 2010). The fact that the biological constitution among individuals differs, their inclination to crime also varies. Therefore, criminals and non-criminals have a difference.

Biogenic/Psychogenic Theories

Biogenic theories of crime are liberal because they offer a broad range of possible causes of crime. They presume that crime is a manifestation of a trait whose manifestation can be aided by a social context in which someone lives. Through this ideological disposition, addressing crimes requires a systematic case by case analysis. It is only through an elaborate process of assessment that crime investigators learn which specific single or reinforcing factors predispose the person to a crime. The biogenic approach does not give credence to the unilateral application of punishment of similar crimes without subjecting them to contextual analysis. For instance, a murderer may be conservatively perceived as being motivated by the social set up within which they live. They can be sentenced to a corrective facility, but upon release, they still re-offend. Recidivism, which is repeat offense even after deliberate measures have been taken to correct a criminal, shows some intrinsic motivator to offend.

Furthermore, serial killers' criminal profiles, for example, have shown a pattern of peculiar behavior patterns. For instance, serial killers have traits including egocentric and grandiose, insincerity, lack of remorse or guilt, deceitful and manipulative, and non-empathetic. Imperatively such traits are inherited despite the environment in which one lives.


Thus, psychogenic theories are conservative since they consider the environment the sole cause of crimes. They ignore the possibility of genetic inheritance of crime. Genes are the most intractable and perversive units in the human body that controls all forms of behavior. The genetic information coded in the Deoxynucleic acids become manifested in various behaviors. Much emphasis on hereditary traits has been put on the visible aspects such as skin complexion, tongue rolling, and eye color. Little focus is on the acted traits. Genes are the basic determinants of an individual's life, although, with certain variations. This reality makes it impractical to completely rule out the possibility that it influences how one inclines to crimes. The effect of genes on criminality may be subtle, but the sheer fact that the genetic constitution of a person defines his whole being demystifies the likelihood of its effects.

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