Biological and Social Theories of Crime

Biological and Classical Theories of Crime
                        Dennis Neal
                  University of Phoenix
                      Tracy Williams
                January 27, 2010

        Biological and Classical Theories of Crime
The question of what causes people to exhibit criminal behavior is a question that continues to puzzle and intrigue scholars of criminology even after centuries of study.
Many theories of crime exist. A couple of these concepts are the Classical, whose supporters insist that humans freely choose to commit crimes, and the positivist theory, which maintains that biological, psychological, and social characteristics influence criminal behavior.
Both philosophies attempt to explain the causation of criminal behavior, albeit in different ways.
                    Classical Theory
The classical theory of criminology builds upon the writings of John Locke. Before Locke wrote his Two Treatises on Government, society believed that political authority came directly from religious authority, hence the Divine Right of Kings (Friend, 2006). Not only did the writings of Locke refute that theory, they also introduced the Social Contract Theory, in which individuals agreed to give the state power over the people.
      Although the state was the official authority, in which power only prevented mob rule and anarchy. Punishment was arbitrary and unequal; many times, the punishment was excessive for the crime committed (Hoffman, 2004).
Cesare Beccaria
The Classical school espoused reform of the criminal justice system, which at the time (mainly pre-18th Century) was harsh, unequal, and corrupt. Cesare Beccaria, an Italian philosopher, wrote On Crimes and Punishments in 1764. In Punishments, Beccaria wrote that the degree of punishment should be proportional to the crime and that swift punishment for crimes worked better as a deterrent rather than pure retribution (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy [IEP], 2001)....