Demonological Theory Of Crime Causation Essay

It has been generally accepted that a systematic study of criminology was first taken up by the Italian scholar, Ceasare Bonesana Marchese de Becaria (1938-94) who is known as the founder of modern criminology. His greatest contribution to the science of criminology was that he, for the first time, proceeded with the study of criminals on a scientific basis and reached certain conclusions from which definite methods of handling crime and criminals could be worked out. Thus the ‘theories of criminology’ or ‘the schools of criminology’ are of a later origin.

Meaning of the ‘School of Criminology’

Edwin Sutherland pointed out that a school of criminology connotes

“the system of thought which consists of an integrated theory of causation of crime and of policies of control implied in the theory of causation”.

Therefore, a school of criminology implies the following three important points:

1. The adherents of each school try to explain the causation of crime and criminal behavior in their own way relying on the theory propounded by the exponent of that particular school.

2. Each school of criminology suggests punishment and preventive measures to suit its ideology.

3. And, each of the school represents the social attitude of people towards crime and criminal in a given time.

In an attempt to find a rational explanation of crime, a large number of theories have been propounded. Various factors such as evil spirit, sin, disease, heredity, economic maladjustment etc. have been put forward either singly or together to explain criminality. With the advance of behavioral sciences, monogenetic explanation of human conduct is no longer valid and the modern trend is to adopt an eclectic view about the genesis of crime. However, some criminologists still tend to lay greater emphasis on physical traits in order to justify exclusive resort to correctional methods for the treatment of offender.

Pre-Classical School of Criminology

The period of seventeenth and eighteenth century in Europe was dominated by the scholasticism of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The dominance of religion in State activities was the chief characteristic of that time. In political sphere, thinkers such as Hobbes and Locke were concentrating on social contract as the basis of social evolution. The concept of Divine right of king advocating supremacy of monarch was held in great esteem. As scientific knowledge was yet unknown the concept of crime was rather vague and obscure. There was a general belief that man by nature is simple and his actions are controlled by some super power. It was generally believed that a man commits crime due to the influence of some external spirit called ‘demon’ or ‘devil’. Thus an offender commits a wrongful act not because of his own free will but due to the influence of some external super power. No attempt was, however, made to probe into the real causes of crime. This demonological theory of criminality propounded by the exponents of pre-classical school acknowledged the omnipotence of spirit, which they regarded as a great power.

The pre-classicals considered crime and criminals as an evidence of the fact that the individual was possessed of devil or demon the only cure for which was testimony of the effectiveness of the spirit. Worships, sacrifices and ordeals by water and fire were usually prescribed to specify the spirit and relieve the victim from its evil influence.  An ordeal is an ancient manner of trial in criminal cases. When an offender pleaded “not guilty”, he might choose whether he would put himself for trial upon God and the country, by 12 men or upon God only, and then it was called ‘the judgment of God’, presuming that God would deliver the innocent. Examples of such ordeals are, throwing into fire, throwing into water after tying a stone to his neck, administration of oath by calling up God’s wrath, trial by battle, etc.

Trial by battle was common mode of deciding the fate of criminal. The oaths and ordeals played a very important role in the ancient judicial system in determining the guilt of the offender. The justification advanced for these rituals was the familiar belief that “when the human agency fails, recourse to divine means of proof becomes most inevitable”. Though these practices appear to be most irrational and barbarous to the modern mind, they were universally accepted and were in existence in most Christian countries till thirteenth century. The Roman law completely ignored the system of ordeals and it was forbidden in Quran.

The right of society to punish the offender was, however, well recognized. The offender was regarded as an innately depraved person who could be cured only by torture and pain. The evolution of criminal law was yet at a rudimentary stage. Hobbes suggested that fear of punishment at the hands of monarch was a sufficient deterrent for the members of early society to keep them away from sinful acts which were synonymous to crimes. Thus the theosophists, notably St. Thomas Aquinas and the social contract writers such as Donte Alighieri, Machiavelli, Martin Luther and Jean Bodin provided immediate background for Beccaria’s classical school at a later stage. The pre-classical thinking, however, withered away with the lapse of time and advancement of knowledge.

The Classical School

The Classical School in criminology is usually a reference to the eighteenth-century work during the Enlightenment by the utilitarian and social contract philosophers Jeremy Bentham and Cesare Beccaria. Their interests lay in the system of criminal justice and penology and, indirectly through the proposition that "man is a calculating animal", in the causes of criminal behaviour. The Classical school of thought was premised on the idea that people have free will in making decisions, and that punishment can be a deterrent for crime, so long as the punishment is proportional, fits the crime, and is carried out promptly.

Beccaria, the pioneer of modern criminology expounded his naturalistic theory of criminality by rejecting the omnipotence of evil spirit. He laid greater emphasis on mental phenomenon of the individual and attributed crime to ‘free will’ of the individual. Thus he was much influenced by the utilitarian philosophy of his time which placed reliance on hedonism, namely, the “pain and pleasure theory”. As Donald Taft rightly put it, this doctrine implied the notion of causation in terms of free choice to commit crime by rational man seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.

Main Reforms Advocated by the Classical School

The system of law, its mechanisms of enforcement and the forms of punishment used in the eighteenth century were primitive and inconsistent. Judges were not professionally trained so many of their decisions were unsatisfactory being the product of incompetence, capriciousness, corruption or political manipulation. The use of torture to extract confessions and a wide range of cruel punishments such as whipping, mutilation and public executions were commonplace. A need for legal rationality and fairness was identified and found an audience among the emerging middle classes whose economic interests lay in providing better systems for supporting national and international trade.

John Locke

John Lockeconsidered the mechanism that had allowed monarchies to become the primary form of government. He concluded that monarchs had asserted the right to rule and enforced it either through an exercise in raw power, or through a form of contract, e.g. the feudal system had depended on the grants of estates in land as a return for services provided to the sovereign. Locke proposed that all citizens are equal, and that there is an unwritten but voluntary contract between the state and its citizens, giving power to those in government and defining a framework of mutual rights and duties. In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes wrote, "the right of all sovereigns is derived from the consent of every one of those who are to be governed." This is a shift from authoritarianism to an early model of European and North American democracy where police powers and the system of punishment are means to a more just end.

Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794)

In 1764, Beccaria published Dei Deliti e Delle Pene ("On Crimes and Punishments") arguing for the need to reform the criminal justice system by referring not to the harm caused to the victim, but to the harm caused to society. In this, he posited that the greatest deterrent was the certainty of detection: the more swift and certain the punishment, the more effective it would be. It would also allow a less serious punishment to be effective if shame and an acknowledgement of wrongdoing was a guaranteed response to society's judgment. Thus, the prevention of crime was achieved through a proportional system that was clear and simple to understand, and if the entire nation united in their own defence. His approach influenced the codification movement which set sentencing tariffs to ensure equality of treatment among offenders. Later, it was acknowledged that not all offenders are alike and greater sentencing discretion was allowed to judges. Thus, punishment works at two levels. Because it punishes individuals, it operates as a specific deterrence to those convicted not to reoffend. But the publicity surrounding the trial and the judgment of society represented by the decision of a jury of peers, offers a general example to the public of the consequences of committing a crime. If they are afraid of similarly swift justice, they will not offend.

In his book "On Crimes and Punishments" Beccaria presented a coherent, comprehensive design for an enlightened criminal justice system that was to serve the people rather than the monarchy. According to Beccaria, the crime problem could be traced not to bad people but to bad laws. A modern criminal justice system should guarantee all people equal treatment before the law. Beccaria’s book supplied the blue print. That blue print was based on the assumption that people freely choose what they do and are responsible for the consequences of their behavior. Beccaria proposed the following principles:

Laws Should Be Used To Maintain Social Contract: “Laws are the conditions under which men, naturally independent, united themselves in society. Weary of living in a continual state of war, and of enjoying a liberty, which became a little value, from the uncertainty of its duration, they sacrificed one part of it, to enjoy the rest in peace and security.”

Only Legislators Should Create Laws: “The authority of making penal laws can only reside with the legislator, who represents the whole society united by the social compact.”

Judges Should Impose Punishment only in Accordance with the Law: “318o magistrate then, (as he is one of the society), can, with justice inflict on any other member of the same society punishment that is not ordained by the laws.”

Judges Should not Interpret the Laws: “Judges, in criminal cases, have no right to interpret the penal laws, because they are not legislators….Everyman has  his own particular point of view and, at different times, sees the same objects in very different lights. The spirit of the laws will then be the result of the good or bad logic of the judge; and this will depend on his good or bad digestion.”

Punishment Should be Based on the Pleasure/Pain Principle: “Pleasure and pain are the only springs of actions in beings endowed with sensibility….If an equal punishment be ordained for two crimes that injure society in different degrees, there is nothing to deter men from committing the greater as often as it is attended with greater advantage.”

Punishment Should be Based on the Act, not on the Actor: “Crimes are only to be measured by the injuries done to the society they err, therefore, who imagine that a crime is greater or less according to the intention of the person by whom it is committed.”

The Punishment Should be Determined by the Crime: “If mathematical calculation could be applied to the obscure and infinite combinations of human actions, there might be a corresponding scale of punishment descending from the greatest to the least.”

Punishment Should be Prompt and Effective: “The more immediate after the commission of a crime a punishment is inflicted the more just and useful it will be….An immediate punishment is more useful; because the smaller the interval of time between the punishment and the crime, the stronger and more lasting will be the association of the two ideas of crime and punishment.”

All People Should be Treated Equally: “I assert that the punishment of a noble man should in no wise differ from that of the lowest member of the society.”

Capital Punishment Should be Abolished: “The punishment of death is not authorized by any right; for….no such right exists….The terrors of death make so slight an impression, that it has not force enough to withstand forgetfulness natural to mankind.”

The Use of Torture to Gain Confessions Should be Abolished: “It is confounding all relations to expect…that pain should be the test of truth, as if truth resided in the muscles and fibers a wretch in torture. By this method the robust will escape, and the feeble be condemned.”

It is Better to Prevent Crime than to Punish Them: “Would you prevent crimes? Let the laws be clear and simple, let the entire force of the nation be united in their defence, let them be intended rather to favour every individual than any particular classes…. Finally, the most certain method of preventing crimes to perfect the system of education.”

Perhaps no other book in the history in the history of criminology has had so great an impact. After the French Revolution, Beccaria’s basic tenets served as a guide for the drafting of the French Penal Code, which was adopted in 1791.

Jeremy Bentham(1748-1832)

Legal scholars and reformers throughout Europe proclaimed their indebtedness to Beccaria, but none owed more to him than the English legal philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Bentham had long and productive career. He inspired many of his contemporaries, as well as criminologists of future generations, with his approach to rational crime control.

Bentham devoted his life to developing a scientific approach to the making and breaking of laws. Like Beccaria he was concerned with achieving “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.” His work was governed by utilitarian principles. Utilitarianism assumes that all human actions are calculated in accordance with their likelihood of bringing happiness (pleasure) or unhappiness (pain). People weigh the probabilities of present future pleasures against those of present and future pain.

Bentham proposed a precise pseudo-mathematical formula for this process, which he called “felicific calculus.” According to his reasoning individuals are “human calculators” who out all the factors into an equation in order to decide whether or not a particular crime is worth committing. This notion may seem rather whimsical today, but at a time when there were over 200 capital offences, it provided a rationale for reform of the legal system. Bentham reasoned that if prevention was the purpose of punishment, and if punishment became too costly by creating more harm than good, then penalties need to be set just a bit an excess of the pleasure one might derive from committing a crime, and no higher. The law exists in order to create happiness for the community. Since punishment creates unhappiness, it can be justified only if it prevents a greater evil than it produces. Thus, Bentham suggested if a hanging a man’s effigy produced the same preventive effect as hanging the man himself there would be no reason to hang the man.

In this context, the most relevant idea was known as the "felicitation principle", i.e. that whatever is done should aim to give the greatest happiness to the largest possible number of people in society. Bentham argued that there had been "punishment creep", i.e. that the severity of punishments had slowly increased so that the death penalty was then imposed for more than two hundred offences in England (Landau, Norma, 2002). For example, if rape and homicide were both punished by death, then a rapist would be more likely to kill the victim (as a witness) to reduce the risk of arrest.

Bentham posited that man is a calculating animal who will weigh potential gains against the pain likely to be imposed. If the pain outweighs the gains, he will be deterred and this produces maximal social utility. Therefore, in a rational system, the punishment system must be graduated so that the punishment more closely matches the crime. Punishment is not retribution or revenge because that is morally deficient: the hangman is paying the murder the compliment of imitation.

But the concept is problematic because it depends on two critical assumptions:

if deterrence is going to work, the potential offender must always act rationally whereas much crime is a spontaneous reaction to a situation or opportunity; and

if the system graduates a scale of punishment according to the seriousness of the offence, it is assuming that the more serious the harm likely to be caused, the more the criminal has to gain.

In this context, note Bentham's proposal for a prison design called the "panopticon" which, apart from its surveillance system included the right of the prison manager to use the prisoners as contract labor.

Spiritualistic understandings of crime stem from an understanding of life in general, that finds most things in life are destiny and cannot be controlled, we are born male or female, good or bad and all our actions are decided by a higher being. People have held such beliefs for all of recorded history, “primitive people regarded natural disasters such as famines, floods and plagues as punishments for wrongs they had done to the spiritual powers” (Vold, G. Bernard, T. and Snipes, J. 1998). These spiritual powers gained strength during the middle ages as they bonded with the feudal powers to create the criminal justice systems. Under a spiritualistic criminal justice system, crime was a private affair that was conducted between the offender and the victim’s family. However this method proved to be too revengeful, as the state took control of punishment. Spiritual explanations provided an understanding of crime when there was no other way of explaining crime. However, the problem with this understanding is it cannot be proven true, and so it was never accepted.

The main tenets of classical school of criminology why noted below

1.   Man’s emergence from the State’s religious fanaticism involved the application  of  his reason as a responsible individual.

1. It is the ‘act’ of an individual and ‘not his intent’ which forms the basis for determining criminality within him. In other words, criminologists are concerned with the ‘act’ of the criminal rather than his ‘intent’. Still, they could never think that there could be something like crime causation.

2. The classical writers accepted punishment as a principal method of infliction of pain, humiliation and disgrace to create ‘fear’ in man to control his behavior.

3. The propounders of this school, however, considered prevention of crime more important than the punishment for it. They therefore, stressed on the need for a Criminal Code in France, Germany and Italy to systematize punishment for forbidden acts. Thus the real contribution of classical school of criminology lies in the fact that it underlined the need for a well defined criminal justice system.

4. The advocates of classical school supported the right of the State to punish the offenders in the interest of public security. Relying on the hedonistic principle of pain and pleasure, they pointed out that individualization was to be awarded keeping in view the pleasure derived by the criminal from the crime and the pain caused to the victim from it. They, however, pleaded for equalization of justice which meant equal punishment for the same offence.

5. The exponents of classical school further believed that the criminal law primarily rests on positive sanctions. They were against the use of arbitrary powers of Judges. In their opinion the Judges should limit their verdicts strictly within the confines of law. They also abhorred torturous punishments.

Thus classical school propounded by Beccaria came into existence as a result of the influence of writings of Montesquieu, Hume, Bacon and Rousseau. His famous work ‘Essays on Crime and Punishment’ received wide acclamation all over Europe and gave a fillip to a new criminological thinking in the contemporary west. He sought to humanize the criminal law by insisting on natural rights of human beings. He raised his voice against severe punishment, torture and death penalty. Beccaria’s views on crime and punishment were also supported by Voltaire as a result of which a number of European countries redrafted their penal codes mitigating the rigorous barbaric punishments and some of them even went to the extent of abolishing capital punishment from their Penal Codes.

Major Shortcomings of the Classical School

The contribution of classical school to the development of rationalized criminological thinking was by no means less important, but it had its own pitfalls.

  1. The classical school proceeded on an abstract presumption of free will and relied solely on the act (i.e., the crime) without devoting any attention to the state of mind of the criminal.
  2. It erred in prescribing equal punishment for same offence thus making no distinction between first offenders and habitual criminals and varying degrees of gravity of the offence.

However, the greatest achievement of this school of criminology lies in the fact that it suggested a substantial criminal policy which was easy to administer without resort to the imposition of arbitrary punishment. It goes to the credit of Beccaria who denounced the earlier concepts of crime and criminals which were based on religious fallacies and myths and shifted emphasis on the need for concentrating on the personality of an offender in order to determine his guilt and punishment. Beccaria’s views provided a background for the subsequent criminologists to come out with a rationalized theory of crime causation which eventually led the foundation of the modern criminology and penology.

Neo-Classical School

In criminology, the Neo-Classical School continues the traditions of the Classical School within the framework of Right Realism. Hence, the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and Cesare Beccaria remains a relevant social philosophy in policy term for using punishment as a deterrent through law enforcement, the courts, and imprisonment

The ‘free will’ theory of classical school did not survive for long. It was soon realized that the exponents of classical school faultered in their approach in ignoring the individual differences under certain situations and treating first offenders and the habitual alike on the basis of similarity of act or crime. The neo-classists asserted that certain categories of offenders such as minors, idiots, insane or incompetent had to be treated leniently in matters of punishment irrespective of the similarity of their criminal act because these persons were incapable of appreciating the difference between right and wrong. This tendency of neo-classists to distinguish criminals according to their mental depravity was indeed a progressive step inasmuch as it emphasized the need for modifying the classical view. Thus the contribution of neo-classical thought to the science of criminology has its own merits.

When crime and recidivism are perceived to be a problem, the first political reaction is to call for increased policing, stiffer penalties, and increased monitoring and surveillance for those released on parole. Intuitively, politicians see a correlation between the certainty and severity of punishment, and the choice whether to commit crime. The practical intention has always been to deter and, if that failed, to keep society safer for the longest possible period of time by locking the habitual offenders away in prisons (see Wilson). From the earliest theorists, the arguments were based on morality and social utility, and it was not until comparatively recently that there has been empirical research to determine whether punishment is an effective deterrent.

The main tenets of neo-classical school of criminology can be summarized as follows

1.Neo-classists approached the study of criminology on scientific lines by recognizing that certain extenuating situations or mental disorders deprive a person of his normal capacity to control his conduct. Thus they justified mitigation of equal punishment in cases of certain psychopathic offenders. Commenting on this point, Prof. Gillin observed that neo-classists represent a reaction against the severity of classical view of equal punishment for the same offence.

1. Neo-classists were the first in point of time to bring out a distinction between the first offenders and the recidivists. They supported individualization of offender a treatment methods which required the punishment to suit the psychopathic circumstances of the accused. Thus although the ‘act’ or the ‘crime’ still remained the sole determining factor  for adjudging criminality without any regard to the intent, yet the neo-classical school focused at least some attention on mental causation indirectly.

2. The advocates of this school started with the basic assumption that man acting on reason and intelligence is a self-determining person and therefore, is responsible for his conduct.  But those lacking normal intelligence or having some mental depravity are irresponsible to their conduct as they do not possess the capacity of distinguishing between good or bad and therefore should be treated differently from the responsible offenders.

3. Though the neo-classists recommended lenient treatment for “irresponsible” or mentally depraved criminals on account of their incapacity to resist criminal tendency but they certainly believed that all criminals, whether responsible or irresponsible, must be kept segregated from the society.

4. It is significant to note that distinction between responsibility and irresponsibility, that is the sanity and insanity of the criminals as suggested by neo-classical school of criminology paved way to subsequent formulation of different correctional institutions such as parole, probation, reformatories, open-air camps etc. in the administration of criminal justice. This is through this school that attention of criminologists was drawn for the first time towards the fact that all crimes do have a cause. It must, however be noted that though this causation was initially confined to psychopathy or psychology but was later expanded further and finally the positivists succeeded in establishing reasonable relationship between crime and environment of the criminal.

5. Neo-classists adopted subjective approach to criminology and concentrated their attention on the conditions under which an individual commits crime.

Thus it would be seen that the main contribution of neo-classical school of criminology lies in the fact that it came out with certain concessions in the ‘free will’ theory of classical school and suggested that an individual might commit criminal acts due to certain extenuating circumstances which should be duly taken into consideration at the time of awarding punishment. Therefore, besides the criminal act as such, the personality of the criminal as a whole, namely, his antecedents, motives, previous life-history, general character, etc., should not be lost sight of in assessing his guilt. It may be noted that the origin of jury system in criminal jurisprudence is essentially an outcome of the reaction of neo-classical approach towards the treatment of offenders.

As to the shortcomings of neo-classical school of criminology, it must be stated that the exponents of this theory believed that the criminal, whether responsible or irresponsible, is a menace to society and therefore, needs to be eliminated from it.

For the academic journal, see Criminology (journal). For the Raekwon song, see Criminology (song).

Criminology (from Latincrīmen, "accusation" originally derived from the Ancient Greek verb "krino" "κρίνω", and Ancient Greek -λογία, -logy|-logia, from "logos" meaning: “word,” “reason,” or “plan”) is the scientific study of the nature, extent, management, causes, control, consequences, and prevention of criminal behavior, both on the individual and social levels. Criminology is an interdisciplinary field in both the behavioral and social sciences, drawing especially upon the research of sociologists, psychologists, philosophers, psychiatrists, biologists, social anthropologists, as well as scholars of law.

The term criminology was coined in 1885 by Italian law professor Raffaele Garofalo as criminologia. Later, French anthropologist Paul Topinard used the analogous French term criminologie.[1]

Schools of thought[edit]

In the mid-18th century criminology arose as social philosophers gave thought to crime and concepts of law. Over time, several schools of thought have developed. There were three main schools of thought in early criminological theory spanning the period from the mid-18th century to the mid-twentieth century: Classical, Positive, and Chicago. These schools of thought were superseded by several contemporary paradigms of criminology, such as the sub-culture, control, strain, labeling, critical criminology, cultural criminology, postmodern criminology, feminist criminology and others discussed below.

Classical school[edit]

The Classical School arose in the mid-18th century and has its basis in utilitarian philosophy. Cesare Beccaria,[2] author of On Crimes and Punishments (1763–64), Jeremy Bentham (inventor of the panopticon), and other philosophers in this school argued:[citation needed]

  1. People have free will to choose how to act.
  2. The basis for deterrence is the idea humans are 'hedonists' who seek pleasure and avoid pain, and 'rational calculators' who weigh the costs and benefits of every action. It ignores the possibility of irrationality and unconscious drives as motivators.[citation needed]
  3. Punishment (of sufficient severity) can deter people from crime, as the costs (penalties) outweigh benefits, and severity of punishment should be proportionate to the crime.[2]
  4. The more swift and certain the punishment, the more effective as a deterrent to criminal behavior.

This school developed during a major reform in penology, when society began designing prisons for the sake of extreme punishment. This period also saw many legal reforms, the French Revolution, and the development of the legal system in the United States.[citation needed]

Positivist school[edit]

The Positivist school argues criminal behavior comes from internal and external factors out of the individual's control. Philosophers within this school applied the scientific method to study human behavior. Positivism comprises three segments: biological, psychological and social positivism.[3]

Italian school[edit]

Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909), an Italian sociologist working in the late 19th century, is often called "the father of criminology."[4] He was one of the key contributors to biological positivism and founded the Italian school of criminology.[5] Lombroso took a scientific approach, insisting on empirical evidence for studying crime.[6] He suggested physiological traits such as the measurements of cheek bones or hairline, or a cleft palate (the belief was this was a throwbacks to Neanderthals) could indicate "atavistic" criminal tendencies. This approach, whose influence came via the theory of phrenology and by Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, has been superseded. Enrico Ferri, a student of Lombroso, believed social as well as biological factors played a role, and believed criminals should not be held responsible when factors causing their criminality were beyond their control. Criminologists have since rejected Lombroso's biological theories, with control groups not used in his studies.[7][8]

Sociological positivism[edit]

Sociological positivism suggests societal factors such as poverty, membership of subcultures, or low levels of education predispose people to crime. Adolphe Quetelet used data and statistical analysis to study the relationship between crime and sociological factors. He found age, gender, poverty, education, and alcohol consumption were important factors to crime.[9] Lance Lochner performed three different research experiments, each one proving education reduces crime.[10] Rawson W. Rawson used crime statistics to suggest a link between population density and crime rates, with crowded cities producing more crime.[11]Joseph Fletcher and John Glyde read papers to the Statistical Society of London on their studies of crime and its distribution.[12]Henry Mayhew used empirical methods and an ethnographic approach to address social questions and poverty, and gave his studies in London Labour and the London Poor.[13]Émile Durkheim viewed crime as an inevitable aspect of society, with uneven distribution of wealth and other differences among people.

Differential association (subcultural)[edit]

People learn crime through association. This theory was advocated by Edwin Sutherland.[14] These acts may condone criminal conduct, or justify crime under specific circumstances. Interacting with antisocial peers is a major cause. Reinforcing criminal behavior makes it chronic. Where there are criminal subcultures, many individuals learn crime, and crime rates swell in those areas.[15]

Chicago school[edit]

The Chicago school arose in the early twentieth century, through the work of Robert E. Park, Ernest Burgess, and other urban sociologists at the University of Chicago. In the 1920s, Park and Burgess identified five concentric zones that often exist as cities grow, including the "zone in transition", which was identified as most volatile and subject to disorder. In the 1940s, Henry McKay and Clifford R. Shaw focused on juvenile delinquents, finding that they were concentrated in the zone of transition.

Chicago School sociologists adopted a social ecology approach to studying cities and postulated that urban neighborhoods with high levels of poverty often experience breakdown in the social structure and institutions such as family and schools. This results in social disorganization, which reduces the ability of these institutions to control behavior and creates an environment ripe for deviant behavior.

Other researchers suggested an added social-psychological link. Edwin Sutherland suggested that people learn criminal behavior from older, more experienced criminals with whom they may associate.

Theoretical perspectives used in criminology include psychoanalysis, functionalism, interactionism, Marxism, econometrics, systems theory, postmodernism, genetics, neuropsychology, evolutionary psychology, etc.

Social structure theories[edit]

This theory is applied to a variety of approaches within the bases of criminology in particular and in sociology more generally as a conflict theory or structural conflict perspective in sociology and sociology of crime. As this perspective is itself broad enough, embracing as it does a diversity of positions.[16]

Social disorganization (neighborhoods)[edit]

Social disorganization theory is based on the work of Henry McKay and Clifford R. Shaw of the Chicago School.[17] Social disorganization theory postulates that neighborhoods plagued with poverty and economic deprivation tend to experience high rates of population turnover.[18] This theory suggests that crime and deviance is valued within groups in society, ‘subcultures’ or ‘gangs’. These groups have different values to the majority norm values in society. These neighborhoods also tend to have high population heterogeneity.[18] With high turnover, informal social structure often fails to develop, which in turn makes it difficult to maintain social order in a community.

Social ecology[edit]

Since the 1950s, social ecology studies have built on the social disorganization theories. Many studies have found that crime rates are associated with poverty, disorder, high numbers of abandoned buildings, and other signs of community deterioration.[18][19] As working and middle-class people leave deteriorating neighborhoods, the most disadvantaged portions of the population may remain. William Julius Wilson suggested a poverty "concentration effect", which may cause neighborhoods to be isolated from the mainstream of society and become prone to violence.[20]

Strain theory (social strain theory)[edit]

Strain theory, also known as Mertonian Anomie, advanced by American sociologist Robert Merton, suggests that mainstream culture, especially in the United States, is saturated with dreams of opportunity, freedom, and prosperity—as Merton put it, the American Dream. Most people buy into this dream, and it becomes a powerful cultural and psychological motivation. Merton also used the term anomie, but it meant something slightly different for him than it did for Durkheim. Merton saw the term as meaning a dichotomy between what society expected of its citizens and what those citizens could actually achieve. Therefore, if the social structure of opportunities is unequal and prevents the majority from realizing the dream, some of those dejected will turn to illegitimate means (crime) in order to realize it. Others will retreat or drop out into deviant subcultures (such as gang members, or what he calls "hobos"). Robert Agnew developed this theory further to include types of strain which were not derived from financial constraints. This is known as "General Strain Theory".[21]

Subcultural theory[edit]

Main article: subcultural theory

Following the Chicago school and Strain Theory, and also drawing on Edwin Sutherland's idea of differential association, subcultural theorists focused on small cultural groups fragmenting away from the mainstream to form their own values and meanings about life.

Albert K. Cohen tied anomie theory with Freud's reaction formation idea, suggesting that delinquency among lower class youths is a reaction against the social norms of the middle class.[22] Some youth, especially from poorer areas where opportunities are scarce, might adopt social norms specific to those places that may include "toughness" and disrespect for authority. Criminal acts may result when youths conform to norms of the deviant subculture.[23]

Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin suggested that delinquency can result from differential opportunity for lower class youth.[24] Such youths may be tempted to take up criminal activities, choosing an illegitimate path that provides them more lucrative economic benefits than conventional, over legal options such as minimum wage-paying jobs available to them.[24]

British subcultural theorists focused more heavily on the issue of class, where some criminal activities were seen as "imaginary solutions" to the problem of belonging to a subordinate class. A further study by the Chicago school looked at gangs and the influence of the interaction of gang leaders under the observation of adults.

Sociologists such as Raymond D. Gastil have explored the impact of a Southern culture of honor on violent crime rates.[25]

Control theories[edit]

Another approach is made by the social bond or social control theory. Instead of looking for factors that make people become criminal, these theories try to explain why people do not become criminal. Travis Hirschi identified four main characteristics: "attachment to others", "belief in moral validity of rules", "commitment to achievement", and "involvement in conventional activities".[26] The more a person features those characteristics, the less likely (s)he is to become deviant (or criminal). On the other hand, if these factors are not present, a person is more likely to become a criminal. Hirschi expanded on this theory with the idea that a person with low self control is more likely to become criminal. As opposed to most criminology theories these ones does not look at why people commit crime but rather why they do not commit crime[27]

A simple example: Someone wants a big yacht but does not have the means to buy one. If the person cannot exert self-control, (s)he might try to get the yacht (or the means for it) in an illegal way, whereas someone with high self-control will (more likely) either wait or deny themselves of what want or seek an intelligent intermediate solution, such as joining a yacht club to use a yacht by group consolidation of resources without violating social norms. Social bonds, through peers, parents, and others can have a countering effect on one's low self-control. For families of low socio-economic status, a factor that distinguishes families with delinquent children from those who are not delinquent is the control exerted by parents or chaperonage.[28] In addition, theorists such as David Matza and Gresham Sykes argued that criminals are able to temporarily neutralize internal moral and social behavioral constraints through techniques of neutralization.

Social network analysis[edit]

Main article: social network analysis (criminology)

Symbolic interactionism[edit]

Symbolic interactionism draws on the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl and George Herbert Mead, as well as subcultural theory and conflict theory.[29] This school of thought focused on the relationship between the powerful state, media, and conservative ruling elite and other less powerful groups. The powerful groups had the ability to become the "significant other" in the less powerful groups' processes of generating meaning. The former could to some extent impose their meanings on the latter; therefore they were able to "label" minor delinquent youngsters as criminal. These youngsters would often take on board the label, indulge in crime more readily, and become actors in the "self-fulfilling prophecy" of the powerful groups. Later developments in this set of theories were by Howard Becker and Edwin Lemert, in the mid-20th century.[30]Stanley Cohen who developed the concept of "moral panic" describing societal reaction to spectacular, alarming social phenomena such as post-World War Two youth cultures (e.g. the Mods and Rockers in the UK in 1964, AIDS and football hooliganism).

Labelling theory[edit]

Labelling theory refers to an individual who is labelled in a particular way and who was studied in great detail by Howard Becker.[31] It arrives originally from sociology but is regularly used in criminological studies. It is said that when someone is given the label of a criminal they may reject or accept it and continue to commit crime. Even those who initially reject the label can eventually accept it as the label becomes more well known particularly among their peers. This stigma can become even more profound when the labels are about deviancy, and it is thought that this stigmatization can lead to deviancy amplification. Klein (1986) [32] conducted a test which showed that labelling theory affected some youth offenders but not others.

Individual theories[edit]

Traitor theories[edit]

At the other side of the spectrum, criminologist Lonnie Athens developed a theory about how a process of brutalization by parents or peers that usually occurs in childhood results in violent crimes in adulthood. Richard Rhodes' Why They Kill describes Athens' observations about domestic and societal violence in the criminals' backgrounds. Both Athens and Rhodes reject the genetic inheritance theories.[33]

Rational choice theory[edit]

Main article: Rational choice theory (criminology)

Rational choice theory is based on the utilitarian, classical school philosophies of Cesare Beccaria, which were popularized by Jeremy Bentham. They argued that punishment, if certain, swift, and proportionate to the crime, was a deterrent for crime, with risks outweighing possible benefits to the offender. In Dei delitti e delle pene (On Crimes and Punishments, 1763–1764), Beccaria advocated a rational penology. Beccaria conceived of punishment as the necessary application of the law for a crime; thus, the judge was simply to conform his sentence to the law. Beccaria also distinguished between crime and sin, and advocated against the death penalty, as well as torture and inhumane treatments as he did not consider them as rational deterrents.

This philosophy was replaced by the Positivist and Chicago Schools and was not revived until the 1970s with the writings of James Q. Wilson, Gary Becker's 1965 article titled "Crime and Punishment"[34] and George Stigler's 1970 article "The Optimum Enforcement of Laws".[35] Rational choice theory argues that criminals, like other people, weigh costs/risks and benefits when deciding whether to commit crime and think in economic terms.[36] They will also try to minimize risks of crime by considering the time, place, and other situational factors.[36]

Gary Becker, for example, acknowledged that many people operate under a high moral and ethical constraint but considered that criminals rationally see that the benefits of their crime outweigh the cost such as the probability of apprehension, conviction, punishment, as well as their current set of opportunities. From the public policy perspective, since the cost of increasing the fine is marginal to that of the cost of increasing surveillance, one can conclude that the best policy is to maximize the fine and minimize surveillance.

With this perspective, crime prevention or reduction measures can be devised that increase effort required to commit the crime, such as target hardening.[37] Rational choice theories also suggest that increasing risk of offending and likelihood of being caught, through added surveillance, police or security guard presence, added street lighting, and other measures, are effective in reducing crime.[37]

One of the main differences between this theory and Jeremy Bentham's rational choice theory, which had been abandoned in criminology, is that if Bentham considered it possible to completely annihilate crime (through the panopticon), Becker's theory acknowledged that a society could not eradicate crime beneath a certain level. For example, if 25% of a supermarket's products were stolen, it would be very easy to reduce this rate to 15%, quite easy to reduce it until 5%, difficult to reduce it under 3% and nearly impossible to reduce it to zero (a feat which would cost the supermarket so much in surveillance, etc., that it would outweigh the benefits). This reveals that the goals of utilitarianism and classical liberalism have to be tempered and reduced to more modest proposals to be practically applicable.

Such rational choice theories, linked to neoliberalism, have been at the basics of crime prevention through environmental design and underpin the Market Reduction Approach to theft [38] by Mike Sutton, which is a systematic toolkit for those seeking to focus attention on "crime facilitators" by tackling the markets for stolen goods [39] that provide motivation for thieves to supply them by theft.[40]

Routine activity theory[edit]

Routine activity theory, developed by Marcus Felson and Lawrence Cohen, draws upon control theories and explains crime in terms of crime opportunities that occur in everyday life.[41] A crime opportunity requires that elements converge in time and place including (1) a motivated offender, (2) suitable target or victim, and (3) lack of a capable guardian.[42] A guardian at a place, such as a street, could include security guards or even ordinary pedestrians who would witness the criminal act and possibly intervene or report it to police.[42] Routine activity theory was expanded by John Eck, who added a fourth element of "place manager" such as rental property managers who can take nuisance abatement measures.[43]

Biosocial theories[edit]

Biosocial criminology is an interdisciplinary field that aims to explain crime and antisocial behavior by exploring both biological factors and environmental factors. While contemporary criminology has been dominated by sociological theories, biosocial criminology also recognizes the potential contributions of fields such as genetics, neuropsychology, and evolutionary psychology.[44]

Aggressive behavior has been associated with abnormalities in three principal regulatory systems in the body serotonin systems, catecholamine systems, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis. Abnormalities in these systems also are known to be induced by stress, either severe, acute stress or chronic low-grade stress [45]

Marxist criminology[edit]

In 1968, young British sociologists formed the National Deviance Conference (NDC) group. The group was restricted to academics and consisted of 300 members. Ian Taylor, Paul Walton and Jock Young - members of the NDC - rejected previous explanations of crime and deviance. Thus, they decided to pursue a new Marxist criminological approach.[46] In The New Criminology, they argued against the biological "positivism" perspective represented by Lombroso, Hans Eysenck and Gordon Trasler.[47]

According to the Marxist perspective on crime, "defiance is normal - the sense that men are now consciously involved…in assuring their human diversity." Thus Marxists criminologists argued in support of society in which the facts of human diversity, be it social or personal, would not be criminalized.[48] They, further, attributed the processes of crime-creation not to genetic or psychological facts, but rather to the material basis of a given society.[49]

Convict Criminology[edit]

Convict Criminology is a rather new school of thought in the realm of Criminology. Convict Criminologists have been directly affected by the Criminal Justice System, oftentimes having spent years inside the prison system. The fathers or Convict Criminology, which include Dr. John Irwin, Dr. Stephan Richards, Dr. Ian Ross, Dr. Chuck Terry, and others argue that traditional criminology can better be understood by those who lived in the walls of the prison industrial complex.[50] Also in the area of area of Convict Criminolgoy we find some accounts of autobiagraphical insights of re-entry, childhood, and prison. Leyva argues that prisonization oftentimes begins before prison, in the home, community, and schools.[51]

Types and definitions of crime[edit]

Both the Positivist and Classical Schools take a consensus view of crime — that a crime is an act that violates the basic values and beliefs of society. Those values and beliefs are manifested as laws that society agrees upon. However, there are two types of laws:

  • Natural laws are rooted in core values shared by many cultures. Natural laws protect against harm to persons (e.g. murder, rape, assault) or property (theft, larceny, robbery), and form the basis of common law systems.
  • Statutes are enacted by legislatures and reflect current cultural mores, albeit that some laws may be controversial, e.g. laws that prohibit cannabis use and gambling. Marxist criminology, Conflict criminology and Critical Criminology claim that most relationships between state and citizen are non-consensual and, as such, criminal law is not necessarily representative of public beliefs and wishes: it is exercised in the interests of the ruling or dominant class. The more right wing criminologies tend to posit that there is a consensual social contract between State and citizen.

Therefore, definitions of crimes will vary from place to place, in accordance to the cultural norms and mores, but may be broadly classified as blue-collar crime, corporate crime, organized crime, political crime, public order crime, state crime, state-corporate crime, and white-collar crime.[52] However, there have been moves in contemporary criminological theory to move away from liberal pluralism, culturalism and postmodernism by introducing the universal term 'harm' into the criminological debate as a replacement for the legal term 'crime'.[53]

Subtopics[edit]

Areas of study in criminology include:

See also[edit]

Main article: Index of criminology articles

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^Deflem, Mathieu, ed. (2006). Sociological Theory and Criminological Research: Views from Europe and the United States. Elsevier. p. 279. ISBN 0-7623-1322-6. 
  2. ^ abBeccaria, Cesare (1764). On Crimes and Punishments, and Other Writings. Translated by Richard Davies. Cambridge University Press. p. 64. ISBN 0-521-40203-4. 
  3. ^David, Christian Carsten. "Criminology - Crime." Cybercrime. Northamptonshire (UK), 5 June 1972. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. <http://carsten-ulbrich.zymichost.com/crimeanalysis/10.html>.
  4. ^http://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5047&context=jclc
  5. ^Siegel, Larry J. (2003). Criminology, 8th edition. Thomson-Wadsworth. p. 7. 
  6. ^McLennan, Gregor; Jennie Pawson; Mike Fitzgerald (1980). Crime and Society: Readings in History and Theory. Routledge. p. 311. ISBN 0-415-02755-1. 
  7. ^Siegel, Larry J. (2003). Criminology, 8th edition. Thomson-Wadsworth. p. 139. 
  8. ^Compare: Siegel, Larry J. (2015-01-01). Criminology: Theories, Patterns, and Typologies (12 ed.). Cengage Learning (published 2015). p. 135. ISBN 9781305446090. Retrieved 2015-05-29.  
  9. ^Beirne, Piers (March 1987). "Adolphe Quetelet and the Origins of Positivist Criminology". American Journal of Sociology. 92 (5): 1140–1169. doi:10.1086/228630. 
  10. ^Lochner, Lance (2004). "The American Economic Review". The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports. 94: 155. doi:10.1257/000282804322970751. 
  11. ^Hayward, Keith J. (2004). City Limits: Crime, Consumerism and the Urban Experience. Routledge. p. 89. ISBN 1-904385-03-6. 
  12. ^Garland, David (2002). "Of Crimes and Criminals". In Maguire, Mike; Rod Morgan; Robert Reiner. The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, 3rd edition. Oxford University Press. p. 21. 
  13. ^"Henry Mayhew: London Labour and the London Poor". Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science. 
  14. ^Herman, Nancy (1995). Deviance: A Symbolic Interactionist Approach. Michigan: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 64–68. ISBN 978-1882289387. 
  15. ^Anderson, Ferracuti. "Criminological Theory Summaries"(PDF). Cullen & Agnew. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  16. ^Hester, S., Eglin, P. 1992, A Sociology of Crime, London, Routledge.
  17. ^Shaw, Clifford R.; McKay, Henry D. (1942). Juvenile Delinquency and Urban Areas. The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-75125-2. 
  18. ^ abcBursik Jr.; Robert J. (1988). "Social Disorganization and Theories of Crime and Delinquency: Problems and Prospects". Criminology. 26 (4): 519–539. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.1988.tb00854.x. 
  19. ^Morenoff, Jeffrey; Robert Sampson; Stephen Raudenbush (2001). "Neighborhood Inequality, Collective Efficacy and the Spatial Dynamics of Urban Violence". Criminology. 39 (3): 517–60. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.2001.tb00932.x. 
  20. ^Siegel, Larry (2015). Criminology: Theories, Patterns, and Typologies. Cengage Learning. p. 191. ISBN 1305446097.

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