Free Essay: The Concept of the Positivist School and America's Crime

Published: 2023-04-05
Free Essay: The Concept of the Positivist School and America's Crime
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Social psychology Criminal justice Human behavior
Pages: 2
Wordcount: 535 words
5 min read

The positivist school was established by Lombroso Cesare together with Ferri Enrico and Garofalo Raffaele. Since its inception, the school has been trying to find scientific neutrality for the quantification and measurement of criminal behaviour. It uses techniques that are devised through observation of criminal characteristics. The method helps to observe and deduce the root cause of a criminal action or behaviour. The ideas developed through the positivist school have helped to identify critical differences between 'criminal' people (Walters & Bradley, 2019). Sigmund Freud first proposed psychological positivism. Freud divided the personality into the superego (the subconscious values), the id (primitive biological drives), and the memory, ego, cognition and perception.

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According to Freud, criminal behaviour is a result of either a weak conscience, mental illness. Bowlby John believed that maternal deprivation results in delinquency. He referred to this as the attachment theory. However, this theory has been dismissed in favour of 'broken homes' or the general privation, in which uncaring or absentee parent or caregiver tends to give rise to a bad-mannered child. Eysenck Hans believed that specific personality types react with criminal or anti-social behaviour. He devised core personality dimensions: psychoticism, extroversion/introversion and neuroticism. Hans describes a personality as the settled reference within which an individual decides how well to behaviour. In other words, personality is a crucial determinant of a person's behaviour.

Positivism school rejects the notion of the classical theory, which heavily relies on the concept of free will. Instead, the school seeks to identify and explain the underlying causes of criminal actions and behaviour. Classical School held the view that criminal punishment should fit the magnitude of the crime and not be treated as immoderate (Wincup, 2017). The school firmly believes in the necessary equality right, and that every individual deserves fair treatment in the eyes of the law. Apart from psychological or biological causes, the positivism school regards society as the initiator of criminal behaviour.

Criminal behaviour is caused by individual pathology or abnormality. Additionally, crime is perceived as a psychiatric, biological, learning deficiency or psychiatric. Moreover, illegal acts or actions are determined by genetic, constitutional or personality factors. However, crime can vary with personality, temperament or degree of adequacy (Wincup, 2017). The positivist school of criminology utilizes the concept of free will to explain as to why offenders choose to commit crimes. Scholars who support this view argue that the effective way of controlling crimes is to enforce necessary measures that deter criminals, and thus makes it difficult and uncomfortable for them to commit crimes.

It is noteworthy that the positivist school is concerned with creating a more humane and rational society where there is complete social control. For instance, Jeremy Bentham, the principal proponent of this school, developed a sociological approach that considered how people weight pain and pleasure (Wincup, 2017). Deviant criminal acts are committed by individuals who are deprived. Therefore, if well satisfied, people would not engage in criminal behaviour. Additionally, knowledge of the severity of their actions can deter people from committing crimes. Understanding that one will be severely punished if caught is crucial when enforcing deterrence actions.


Wincup, E. (2017). Criminological research: Understanding qualitative methods. Sage.

Walters, R., & Bradley, T. (2019). Introduction to criminological thought. Pearson Education.

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