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Comparison between Classical and Positivist Thinking in Criminology

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The development of ancient theory has demonstrated that classical and positivist schools of criminology are a contemporary method of addressing criminal actions. The chief notion associated with the main schools is the creation of adequate approaches that will put an end to deviant behaviour which is perceived to be dangerous to the society. Even though the aims of both attitudes are auxiliary to the motives of criminal activities, the two schools provide opposing philosophies in their explanation of deviant behaviour. The classical line of thinking in regard to criminology was created in the 18th century in the enlightenment era.

The horrible punishments that were taking place in Europe were over-shadowed by the creation of this idea as it acknowledged an unanticipated civil change, and thus provided a critical outline of the criminal code in the western civilization. The main concerns of the classical theory were thus to increase the biased disputes associated with the criminal justice system (Larson, Garrett & Larson, 1996). The introduction of the classical theory also obligated the rule of law and personal dignity so that the criminals were no longer subjected to retribution without initially being convicted by a judge in a court of law.

The father of classical theory, Cesare Beccaria was the legal reformer who instigated this justice structure whereby all the affiliates of the social order were accorded the same rights. In his work, On Crimes and Punishment, Beccaria revealed the main importance of civilizing and justifying law to make morality become more practical (Larson, Garrett & Larson, 1996). Beccaria recommended abstraction of legal discretion, and he acknowledged that elucidation of law by the courts could provoke discretion.

A different supporter of the classical theory also developed the idea of utilitarianism in association with the classical theory, and this supported the notion of the greatest good to the greatest number. This theory recommended that law-making should seek to please the highest number of people in society. On the other hand, the positivist perception of criminal activity was developed in the 19th century in Europe. Cesare Lombroso was the key theorist who supported this theory and the development of the theory took place at a time characterised by social and political turmoil in Italy.  

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