12 Schools of Criminology

schools of criminology

There have been two basic theories to explain criminal behavior: spiritual and natural. They are both ancient and modern. Spiritual explanations take help from otherworldly powers to account for what happens in this material world.

Primitive animism and all the major religions invoke otherworldly power to explain human and natural affairs. Natural explanations use objects and events of this material world to explain what happens. The early Phoenicians, Greeks, and Indians developed a naturalistic approach.

Though criminology has been of scientific interest for two centuries, it owes much to the wisdom of ancient scholars who thought about the causes of crime and possible remedies. The classical school is the result of the culmination of philosophical thought.

Emerging in the middle of the eighteenth century, this school considers the human being as a free-will agent who assesses the cost and benefit of his activity. Fear of punishment can deter individuals from committing crimes.

According to classical criminologists, the pain of punishment should be greater than the pleasure the criminal gains. Embodying this principle in penal policy, a society can control crime.

The classical school was not challenged until the early nineteenth century when great advances were made in the natural sciences and in medicine. Physicians in France, Germany, and England conducted systematic studies on crime and criminals.

Crime statistics appeared in several European countries in the early and middle years of the nineteenth century. In this context, a positive school emerged. This school, unlike the classical school, holds that human behavior is determined by factors, biological, psychological, and social which are beyond his control.

Biological factors were the main concern of the earliest positivist theories, which dominated criminological discourse until the last half of the nineteenth century.

In the twentieth century, biological explanations took a back seat and were considered ‘racist’ after World War II. They were resurrected in the 1970s. The whole of the twentieth century has witnessed the endeavors of psychologists and psychiatrists to find out the causes of crime.

Sociological theories, a third area of positivist criminology, emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century and developed during the whole of the twentieth century and still dominate this area of knowledge.

Schools of criminology represent the historical legacy of the field. Though many of the earlier theories have been discredited, their presentation is needed for two reasons: first, it gives an idea about the development of criminology; second, modern thinking has resurrected many concepts of these theories in new forms.

Interestingly, all the schools of criminology originated in Europe and America. Considering their geographical location, Asia and Africa contribute nothing to the development of modern criminology.

However, the schools outline some basic features of physiology, psychology, and human society, which have universal application irrespective of geographic location, human race, and society. A brief sketch of all the major schools is given below.

12 Schools of Criminology

Pre-Classical School

The pre-classical school is not a school in the truest sense of the term. In fact, this school focused on the social and intellectual environment from where the classical school collected its elements and finally formulated its thesis.

The pre-classical school brought the whole scope of preceding intellectual history before us concerning the emergence of society and the relationship between the individual and the group.

The scholasticism of St. Thomas Aquinas and the theories of social contract were the characteristic features of that time. The social contract thinkers, with their intellectualism and rationalism, had to compete with the theology of the church and the doctrine of the divine rights of kings.

In fact, the pre-classical era was a time of conglomerated ideas emanating from Christian religious texts and the writings of the social contract thinkers.

People accepted the ideas concerning the genesis of the individual human and human society, the nature of human beings, the nature of human will, social control, and punishment.

People of the pre-classical era accepted the religious thesis that human beings had originally existed in the state of Nature, Grace, or Innocence. The application of his/her reason as a responsible individual caused the emergence of the human being from that state of innocence.

All the members of the human family, as per the doctrine of the Fall, are living in a predicament because the first human pair violated the Divine command. Individuals spontaneously and deliberately made an agreement to live together in a society.

According to social contract theories, they contracted to form a society to ensure a secure and comfortable life.

Each member of society gave up some of her/his liberties to promote collective welfare. The portion of liberties left by every member constitutes the foundation of social authority to control external human behavior. Human will is accepted to regulate human behavior.

Though God and the devil or impulses or instincts can influence human will, nevertheless, it is free to a considerable extent. Fear of pain influences the human will and is accepted as the principal instrument for controlling behavior.

Punishment is utilized to create fear in the minds of people, which influences their will and thus controls their behavior. Society had the authority to punish the lawbreakers, and later on, this authority was transferred to the political state.

These were the prevalent ideas of the pre-classical era. There was resentment and concerns about the procedure and personal abuse, but the basic frame of reference of the prevalent thought pattern was not questioned.

Classical School

The classical school is premised on a hedonistic principle, which provides the basic motivation for human activities. It criticized the existing criminal law and criminal justice system. It justifies the utilization of punishment for controlling crime.

The establishment of a rational criminal justice system, which could ensure peaceful social order, was the main concern of classicists. The main exponents of the classical school are Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham.

Italian mathematician and economist Cesare Bonesana, Marchese de Becarria, is the main exponent of the classical school. He examined the existing correction system of his day and put forward recommendations to reform it.

He was born in 1738 in Milan, Italy, and educated at the Jesuit College at Parma. There he exhibited his efficiency in mathematics. He became interested in politics and economics from the writings of Montesquieu.

By taking full advantage of being the friend of Alessandro Verri, a prison official in Milan, he frequently visited the prison and studied criminal court procedures and the correctional system of Italy. He took a keen interest in reforming the prevalent system of correction, which led to the publication of his famous book “Dei delitti e delle pene” (1764).

Later on, this book was translated into English and published under the title of “Essay on Crime and Punishment” (London, 1767). Beccaria protested against the anomalies in the government and public administration.

He raised objections against the capricious practice of the judges and the barbaric and inhuman punishments of the time. The judges frequently went beyond the mandate of the law.

Taking special circumstances into consideration, the judges added penalties to the punishments prescribed by law. Most of the protest writings were directed against these arbitrary and tyrannical practices of the judges, through which they took part in favor of one class against other classes in society.

On the basis of mutual agreement, a contractual society, as Beccaria went on to say, had been formed. Beccaria argued that every member of society left some portion of his liberties, which constituted the sovereignty of a nation.

Sovereignty is deposited in the hands of a lawful administrator. The deposit of leaving liberties in the hands of the sovereign is not enough; it must be defended from the usurpation of each individual. Beccaria believed that the people who take away the rights of others and overstep the prescribed limit of the law should be punished.

Otherwise, society would be dissolved and plunged into its former chaos. The penal laws made by the legislators could only determine the punishment of crime. Beccaria strongly argued that no magistrate could inflict or enhance punishment beyond the law’s mandate.

He held that legislators were the sole law-making authority and represented the whole society, so judges should not go beyond the prescribed punishment of the law. Judges were to determine guilt, and penalties were to be prescribed by law. Judges could not interpret the penal laws as they were not legislators.

Beccaria tried to save the people from becoming the slaves of the magistrates. It was the right of the state’s sovereign authority to punish the lawbreakers to defend public liberty.

There should be, in view of Beccaria, a scale of crimes and punishments. The crimes that tended to dissolve the whole society were first-degree crimes.

All actions contrary to the public good were designated as second-degree crimes.

The actions having the smallest possibility of doing injustice to a private member of society were third-degree crimes. Beccaria considered the principle of pain and pleasure as the basis of human motivation.

That’s why the fundamental principle of criminal law emanated from the positive sanction of the state.

Beccaria considered the prevention of crime more important than punishment. He admitted the utility of punishment and envisaged it as desirable when it assisted in preventing crime. Beccaria advocated abolishing torture and secret accusations, speedy trials, certainty of punishment, and abolishing capital punishment.

He recommended that imprisonment be improved by classifying the inmates according to sex, age, and category of criminality and by furnishing better physical care to the prisoners. Beccaria strongly argued for publishing the procedure relating to criminal law.

Contemporary scholars received the little book of Beccaria with enthusiasm. Voltaire wrote a preface for the French edition.

Subsequently, French legislators incorporated many propositions of Beccaria in the famous French Code of 1791. The French Code “attempted to apply Beccaria’s principle of ‘equal punishment for the same crime.’ It adopted his suggestions that crime should be arranged on a scale, that to each crime, the law should affix a penalty, and that the legislators should make the law, while the judges should only apply it to the case that came before them for trial.”

Jeremy Bentham

The great British philosopher Jeremy Bentham was born in 1748 and was trained in law. He believed in the rationality of the human being, who chooses certain acts because they bring pleasure and avoids acts that are likely to result in pain.

He held that punishment should be severe enough to outweigh the pleasure one gets from committing a crime. Bentham was influenced by the utilitarian principle.

Utilitarianism assumes that every human being calculates the probable happiness and unhappiness of their acts and accordingly directs their activity.

According to him, the law is there to ensure happiness for the community. As punishment creates unhappiness, it can be justified if it prevents greater evil, i.e., crime and delinquency. He believed that the certainty of punishment outweighed its severity, and punishment should “fit the crime.”

Instead of a single punishment, he stood for a variety of punishments in handling the criminals. Due to the influence of his thought, English criminal law was completely reformed between 1820 and 1861, when the number of capital offenses was reduced from 222 to 3: murder, treason, and piracy.

Due to the characteristic features of the classical school, it is recognized as an administrative and legal school. It provides a procedure that is easy to administer. It consigns the law to prescribe an exact penalty for every crime and enjoins the judges to follow the sanction of the law.

The classical conception of justice, therefore, advocates for an exact scale of punishment for equal acts without taking into account the individual variations or the extenuating circumstances in which the crime is committed.

As an inevitable consequence, the French Code fell into disuse, and it was amended to ease the administration of justice. All these amendments and modifications were the essence of the neo-classical school.

Neo-Classical School

The classical formulation of justice and its subsequent incorporation into the French Code encountered great difficulty because it ignored individual differences and extenuating circumstances.

The Code treated first offenders and repeaters alike and considered minors, idiots, the insane, and other incompetents as though they were competent.

Due to these practical difficulties, the legislators of France revised the Code and introduced modifications. The revised French Code of 1819 gave discretionary power to the judges in specific objective circumstances.

The neo-classical school did not deviate from the basic doctrine of human nature: that a human being is a rational creature with free will. Every individual is responsible for their acts and motivated by the fear of punishment.

The penal policy should be devised in such a fashion that the pain of the punishment must outweigh the pleasure obtained from the criminal act, which will operate as the principal motivation for lawful activities.

The neo-classical school suggested modifications of the doctrine of free will, as human will might be affected by pathology, incompetence, insanity, or any other condition that can make an individual incapable of exercising free will.

The neo-classical school recommended that the environment and mental condition of the individual should be taken into account. The school recommended modifying the doctrine of responsibility and awarding lesser punishment to incompetent persons.

Expert opinion, in view of this school, should be entertained to verify whether the accused is capable of differentiating between right and wrong and is accordingly responsible for their act. In fact, the neo-classical school continued with the main proposition of the classical conception with some modifications for promoting the smooth administration of justice.

Evaluation of the Classical and Neo-Classical School

In all advanced industrial societies, whether in the West or East, the neo-classical view of human beings, with minor variations, provided the most fundamental assumption of human beings on which those systems relied.

Lawful authorities accepted classical criminology because it justified the existing practice of using punishment in the control of crime. Classical criminologists criticized some of the existing practices of criminal law and the criminal justice system and asked for reform.

Legal authorities preferred the classical theory because it was based on the social contract theory, without which society would be relegated to a ‘war of all against all.’ Every member of society should obey the law for the best interest of all; otherwise, crime would dissolve the social fabric.

Crime is, as the social contract thinkers considered, a fundamentally irrational act and is committed by a greedy short-sighted, impulsive person. The fact that crime was concentrated in the lower classes is taken blindly, and those classes were characterized as filled with dangerous and irrational people.

The classical view advocated for the uniform application of laws without questioning whether the laws were fair or just. The social contract thinkers did not consider that some groups might not consent to the formation of society, and some societies were oppressive and unjust.

In any form of social contract, some people enjoy greater privileges than others. The privileged class gets more benefits and pays less cost for the social contract, and other groups get fewer benefits and more costs. The latter group will probably be less loyal to the social contract, which may be expressed by the high number of crimes committed by them.

The costs and benefits of adhering to the social contract should be made more uniform for different groups of society to reduce crime instead of relying solely on punishment.

Social contract theorists did not consider this perspective as they were wealthy people who tried to justify the existence of inequalities.

Hobbes emphatically said that lower-class people should be taught to believe that there was no alternative than to adhere to the social contract.

Locke viewed that as society had been formed on the basis of the tacit consent of all members, so every member was under compulsion to obey the law. He maintained that only the affluent class leading a fully rational life had the right to make law.

At the very outset of its development, criminology was conservative in attitude, as it opposed new ideas and change and preferred to keep existing ideas and conditions. The early criminologists considered anything that was likely to threaten the current social order as a violation of the ‘natural laws’ of society. To them, crime was not a reaction to the current social arrangement; rather, it endangered the existence of society.

Emerging in the middle of the eighteenth century, the classical school was premised on the philosophical concept of social contract thinkers. Classical criminologists addressed the inconsistencies between criminal law and the criminal justice system.

Finally, rational systems of criminal justice were established to protect new capitalist societies. Beccaria did not consider that the status quo should be continued.

Every human tries, in his view, to achieve their interests even at the cost of others. He identified this attitude as the source of crime. He was fully aware of the injustice made to the poor and the fact that the law can itself contribute to begetting crime. He wrote that:

“What man of any sensibility can keep from shuddering when he sees thousands of poor wretches driven by a misery either intended or tolerated by laws (Which have always favored the few and outraged the many) to a desperate return to the original state of nature—when he sees them accused of impossible crimes, fabricated by timid ignorance, or found guilty of nothing other than being true to their own principles, and sees them lacerated with meditated formality and slow torture by men gifted with the same senses, and consequently with the same passion?…To prohibit a multitude of indifferent acts is not to prevent crimes that might arise from them, but is rather to create new ones…For one motive that drives men to commit real crime, there are a thousand that drive them to commit those indifferent acts which are called crimes by bad laws…The majority of laws are nothing but privileges, that is a tribute paid by all to the convenience of some few. Do you want to prevent crimes?… See to it that the laws favor not so much classes of men as men themselves.”

Thus, Beccaria admitted the existing inequality of society, indicating that the punishment of lawbreakers is incorrect when the laws themselves are unjust.

As classical criminology is identified with the social contract position that crime is necessarily irrational, the above aspect of Beccaria’s writing is sometimes overlooked.

Classical and neo-classical schools, in sum, rejected the supernatural as a frame of reference and brought the free will of human beings as the controlling authority behind human activities. Considering that aspect, they started a naturalistic approach to the study of human behavior.

Instead of viewing humans as puppets of the supernatural, they envisaged humans as self-determining and rational beings fully responsible for their activities, except in extenuating circumstances. The thought pattern brought by the classical and neo-classical schools was interrupted by the emergence of the positive school.

Since the time of Lombroso, criminology was dominated by positivism and continued until the beginning of the late 1960s, when substantial interest in the classical perspective revived.

In the late 1970s, some scholars endeavored to develop the classical perspective with the assistance of modern behavioral sciences and also by empirical studies of the impact of the certainty and severity of punishment on the crime rate.

Criminologists and sociologists dominated the deterrence theory and research, and economists dominated the other branches of contemporary classicism. Along with the classicists, economists hold that a person considers the costs and benefits when they decide to buy a hamburger instead of a T-bone steak or a Volkswagen instead of a Cadillac.

Not only are monetary factors taken into account by the costs and benefits consideration, but taste, comfort, prestige, and convenience are also considered. Many economists started to mull crime as an economic choice.

The persons concerned with the positivist search for the causes and cures of crime are disappointed with the revival of classicism.

Persons who think that treatment (i.e., positivism) should be abandoned argue that punishment (i.e., classicism) will be more effective in reducing the number of crimes. Positivism holds that punishment should not be used solely for dealing with crime.

Due to the revival of classicism, emphasis has been again shifted to punishment. The debate between positivism and classicism paves the way for further development.

Positive School

Since the middle of the nineteenth century, human knowledge has undergone extensive examination. Human thinking underwent such a shift that can be considered an intellectual revolution. During this time, empirical and experimental science became well-established.

A new system of explaining all phenomena of humans, along with their accumulated heritage of history, custom, tradition, mythology, and religion, began its enthusiastic journey.

Human beings started to be identified in light of the findings of objective science. Biology identified human beings as members of the animal family without having any special link with divinity.

Darwin’s evolution thesis caused the final break with the thought of the past. In his “Descent of Man” (1871), he visualized that human beings reached their current stage through thousands of years of evolution.

Our ancestors were undeniably related to the animal past; the only difference was that they were more highly evolved.

Similarly, some were thought to be less developed among human beings, and in their traits, abilities, and dispositions, they resembled their ape-like ancestors.

Within this intellectual environment, the educated people of Europe and America were nurtured in the last half of the nineteenth century. Not only in physiology and medicine, but animal experimentation was becoming an accepted method of learning about human beings; it was also so in psychology and psychiatry.

Science began to consider human beings as one of many creatures in the animal world. Human beings were no longer viewed as self-determining agents, which caused a shift in the classical thought pattern. Human behavior is determined by biological, psychological, and cultural antecedents.

Lombroso was a product of this intellectual world and utilized this frame of reference when expressing his thesis about crime, which Beccaria did around 100 years ago.

The development of positivism is closely associated with the names of Cesare Lombroso, Enrico Ferri, and Raffaele Garofalo. Their contributions are briefly discussed.

Cesare Lombroso

Cesare Lombroso was born in 1835 to a Jewish family in Venice. After receiving an education in medicine, he specialized in psychiatry.

He developed his academic career as a professor of legal medicine at the University of Turin. Lombroso gained fame in 1876 by publishing his book “L’Uomo Delinquente” (The Criminal Man).

He argued that compared to normal human beings, a criminal was more primitive and savage, a biological throwback to an earlier evolutionary stage. Lombroso drew inspiration from Charles Darwin, who wrote:

“With mankind, some of the worst dispositions, which occasionally, without any assignable cause, make their appearance in families, may perhaps be reversions to a savage state, from which many generations do not remove us.”

While Lombroso is known as the founder of the positive school, it’s important to note that biological determinism is not the sole basis of positivism.

The real foundation of positivism lies in the multiple-factor approach to understanding the causes of criminality.

Lombroso made several revisions to his original theory of the physical criminal type, incorporating different environmental and cultural elements influenced by his notable students, Enrico Ferri and Raffaele Garofalo.

In the fifth edition of “L’Uomo Delinquente,” Lombroso expanded his thinking over a span of 20 years. He included factors such as climate, rainfall, grain prices, sex, marriage customs, criminal laws, banking practices, government organization, religion, and more in explaining the causes of crime.

His mature thinking shifted from a focus on biological factors to include environmental ones.

Lombroso classified criminals into three major categories;

  1. born criminals (atavistic),
  2. insane criminals (those with mental disorders), and
  3. criminaloids (those without physical stigmas or mental disorders but with a disposition for criminal behavior under certain circumstances).

Lombroso’s work underscored the importance of studying individuals through anthropological, social, and economic data.

He aimed to establish a relationship between biological traits and human behavior, conceiving criminals as throwbacks to a more primitive type of brain structure.

Later in his career, he modified his theory to include general degeneracy or defectiveness, adapting to the changing landscape of anthropology and psychology.

By the time of Lombroso’s death in 1909, his theories seemed simplistic and outdated in the face of advancements in anthropology and psychology.

The theory of the physical criminal type became less significant, and psychiatry and psychology began to demonstrate that the relationship between crime and conditions like epilepsy and insanity was more complex than Lombroso had initially assumed.

Despite the criticism, Lombroso’s theory of atavistic criminals drew significant public attention and was considered the foundational work of early criminology throughout most of the twentieth century.

He was often portrayed in criminology textbooks as the first criminologist to apply the scientific method to understanding the causes of criminality, thus earning him the title of the founder of positive criminology.

Enrico Ferri

Enrico Ferri (1856-1928) was a distinguished pupil of Cesare Lombroso. Born in the Italian province of Mantua, Ferri studied statistics at the University of Bologna, which he later applied to the study of crime.

He continued his studies in Paris, where he analyzed French crime data from 1826 to 1878. After returning to the University of Turin, Ferri became a student of Lombroso.

While Ferri was interested in Lombroso’s biological theories of crime causation, he placed greater emphasis on social, economic, and political factors as causes of criminal behavior.

By 1884, Ferri had developed his ideas, which he presented in two major publications: “L’Omicidio-Suicidio” (Rome, 1884) and “La Sociologia Criminale” (Turin, 1884).

Ferri argued that crime was the result of multiple factors, which he categorized into three major groups:

  1. physical (including race, climate, geography, and temperature),
  2. anthropological (such as age, sex, and organic or psychological conditions), and
  3. social (including population density, customs, religion, government organization, economic conditions, and industrial conditions).

Ferri’s recommendations for addressing crime included free trade, the abolition of monopolies, affordable housing for women, public savings banks, improved street lighting, birth control, freedom of marriage and divorce, state control of weapon manufacturing, support for clergy marriage, the establishment of foundling homes, and provision for public recreation as an alternative to punishment.

Toward the end of his life, Ferri expressed support for Mussolini’s fascism, highlighting a problem with positivist theory as it tended to align with totalitarian governments. Positivism and fascism shared a similarity in that both systems were indifferent to public opinion.

According to positivism, scientific experts possessed superior knowledge and could determine who was a criminal and what treatment they should receive without regard for public opinion.

Raffaele Garofalo

Raffaele Garofalo (1852-1934) was born in Naples to a family of Spanish origin. He is the third exponent of the Italian positivist school. Garofalo received a legal education and became a magistrate relatively young. He held important positions in various parts of Italy and eventually became a professor of criminal law at the University of Naples and a Senator of the Kingdom.

Although tasked with revising the Code of Criminal Procedure in 1903 by the Minister of Justice, this project was ultimately abandoned due to governmental difficulties.

Garofalo authored several books and monographs on crime and criminals, with his most notable work being “Criminology,” initially published as a monograph in 1880 and later expanded and published as a regular book in 1885.

This book received recognition both in Italy and abroad, was reprinted several times, and was translated into multiple languages, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, and English.

Like Lombroso and Ferri, Garofalo rejected the doctrine of free will, considering that crime could be understood through a scientific method. He formulated a sociological definition of crime, emphasizing elements of scientific universals that no civilized society could deny.

Garofalo argued that crimes are those activities that offend two fundamental altruistic sentiments in every human being: the sentiments of pity and probity.

Garofalo, having witnessed the limitations of criminal procedure, was concerned with reforming it. He proposed a design of punishment based on the Darwinian principle of adaptation.

He suggested that individuals exhibiting delinquent behavior must be removed from society through means such as the death penalty, life imprisonment, or transportation. Garofalo also advocated for enforced reparation for those lacking altruistic sentiments.

Garofalo believed that his theory of punishment could contribute to the gradual eradication of criminals and their descendants, much like the effect of harsh capital penalties in England during the time, which he claimed had largely eliminated the English criminal stock. Similar to Ferri, Garofalo also adapted to the Mussolini regime later in his life.

Psychological School

The psychological school of criminology emerged in the twentieth century, focusing on the role of psychological factors in understanding criminal behavior.

This school began with the theories formulated by Sigmund Freud, who proposed that unconscious desires and conflicts play a crucial role in shaping human behavior, including criminal acts.

According to Freud, the id represents the reservoir of basic biological drives in every individual. These id-driven desires often exist in the unconscious mind and may be expressed through dreams or activities that are not socially approved. This concept suggests that every individual has the potential to commit criminal acts.

Freud’s ideas formed the foundation for the psychological school of criminology, which explores how failures in psychological development, the learning of aggression and violence through modeling and direct experiences, personality characteristics (such as impulsivity and irresponsibility), and mental disorders (such as psychosis and psychopathy) can contribute to criminal behavior.

Socialist School

The socialist or economic school of criminology emerged in the mid-1800s, drawing inspiration from the theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. This school of thought is based on economic determinism, emphasizing the role of economic factors in driving criminal behavior.

Marx and Engels developed a philosophical doctrine grounded in materialism and the idea of historical evolution. They argued that economic conditions and the control of the means of production are primary factors in shaping social structures.

According to their theories, social classes, private property, and economic inequality lead to class struggle.

The Marxist doctrine identifies the economic infrastructure (the mode of production and ownership of resources) as the foundation of a society, while the superstructure (including law and the state) emerges to serve the interests of the ruling class.

In this view, the law is a tool of the ruling elites to maintain their dominance and perpetuate social inequality.

Marx and Engels contended that the state and law emerged when society became stratified into different classes due to the division of labor. They argued that law and the state exist to protect the interests of the ruling class and maintain social inequality.

Marxist criminologists like Willem Bonger expanded on these ideas, examining the impact of economic conditions on crime. They concluded that criminal law primarily serves the interests of the propertied class and is enforced through coercion rather than consensus.

In Marxist thought, capitalism generates selfishness and greed, leading to poverty and, consequently, crime. The ultimate solution proposed by Marxists is the abolition of private ownership and the establishment of a classless, communist society where wealth and resources are distributed equally.

In summary, the socialist school of criminology emphasizes the role of economic factors, particularly capitalism and economic inequality, as major drivers of criminal behavior. It suggests that crime will persist as long as capitalism exists and envisions the elimination of crime in a future communist society where goods and wealth are shared equitably.

Sociological School

Sociological School

Among the schools of criminology, the sociological school is the most varied and diverse. The cartographic and socialist schools first started to analyze the causes of crime in a sociological context.

Tarde, a French social psychologist and a contemporary of Lombroso rejected the biological proposition of criminality.

He developed a theory of imitation in determining the causes of crime. He argued that one behaves according to the customs of their society, and when one commits any crime, they are merely imitating someone else.

The sociological school flourished widely in the United States in the late nineteenth century. Departments of sociology at different universities began to accept criminology as a field of study. From that time on, sociologists began systematic studies of crime and criminals.

In 1901, a survey revealed that United States colleges and universities offered criminology and penology under the subject ‘sociology’ as among the first courses.

The American Journal of Sociology was first published in 1895 and included book reviews on criminology.

At that time, American sociologists were fascinated by many arguments of Lombroso. Later on, Goring’s work rejected the Lombrosian thesis. A strong environmentalist wave spread over the whole of America since 1915.

The sociological school is very wide and diverse. It embraces all the institutions of society and relates those to the crime situation of a given society.

Family, educational institutions, economic conditions, religion, and government are important institutions of society that mold the behavior pattern of an individual and have an impact on the crime situation of a society.

The sociological school is diverse in the sense that an individual is born and develops their behavior within the structure of society. One way or another, society becomes a leading discourse when analyzing the criminal behavior of individuals.

The voluminous works of sociologists give rise to many sociological theories, which can be divided into mainstream theories: anomie, social process, and social control approaches, and critical or alternative theories: labeling, conflict, and radical approaches.

The anomie perspective includes anomie theory, personality adaptations, and differential social organization theories.

Anomie theories hold that anomie occurs when deregulation takes place in any society. Rapid social change and contradictions between social goals and approved means may cause deregulation in a society, which creates normlessness, leading to crime and delinquency.

The social process perspective includes learning, differential association, and subcultural theories. The social process theories consider that criminal behavior emerges out of the same processes as other social behaviors do.

Social process theorists hold that criminal behavior is learned through a process of social interaction. In their view, social disorganization begets subcultural groups and crime.

The social control perspective consists of containment and social bond theories, arguing that delinquency occurs when social control is either removed or weakened.

Critical or alternative theories emerged in the 1960s and 70s. Labeling theory argues that individuals are criminals because society and the criminal justice system brand them in that way.

Conflict criminology holds that vested interest groups compete with each other to control the law-making and law-enforcement process. The continuous conflict of social groups is reflected in the entire process of law-making and crime control. Radical criminology considers that crime is the outcome of capitalism.