Individual Positivism

3 March 2017

Positivism emerged towards the end of the nineteenth century, and sought to oppose traditional, Classical ways of criminological thinking. The theory tended to look at crime scientifically, in order to produce facts based around the key causes of crime and so, they could attempt to truly understand what kind of people offend and for what reasons. Offenders and offending behaviour had been understood before as voluntary concepts, where people had free will and the choice to commit crime (or not to).

Positivists began to observe crime as a more deterministic concept and challenged whether or not people really do choose to offend. Moreover, the overall and fundamental view of an Individual Positivist is that those who become involved in crime or deviance are characteristically different to those who abide by the law. The theory, also known as Eugenics is a primarily, biologically based theory that claims that criminality is individualistic, i. e. crime is committed mainly by individuals as opposed to those in groups.

Individual Positivism Essay Example

These theorists put forward the notion that certain idiosyncrasies – either physical or psychological – are similar in those who are criminal, and those who are not in turn, will not fit this particular criteria. Physical attributes such as, having ‘darker skin’ or ‘larger ears’ were believed by Cesare Lombroso to be influential factors for involvement in crime and deviance. (2006) (companion refs) Lombroso believed that there was an “in-born criminality” in criminals. He called them “atavistic” with features more akin to “savages”, a view held by many positivists.

Other developments in this psychological approach found that even the size of the human brain is a determinant factor for criminal behaviour. (2008) (companion) Eysenck furthers this argument by saying that someone’s IQ level can determine their criminality. He backs this up by highlighting statistics that display Chinese or Asian people being the most intelligent people in the world population, with White people coming second in the ranks and Black people were claimed to be the least intelligent. This data reflects the ratio of the prison population and shows in his opinion, how criminal behaviour can be linked to intelligence levels.

This view has been criticised however, because it has been highlighted that say for example, if an IQ test is generated by White people then White people will find the test relatively easier in comparison with if it was made up by Black or Chinese people. It is argued that IQ tests are culturally biased, e. g. A question might ask “Knife is to Fork as Cup is to…? ” The answer is ‘Saucer,’ but this should not be expected to be a universally known answer, as eating and drinking habits vary enormously in differing countries and cultures.

As such characteristics are inherited or acquired beyond anyone’s control, Individual Positivists would claim that the most beneficial way of preventing crime is to treat or rehabilitate criminals and ‘fix’ or ‘normalise’ their minds, so to speak. Coleman and Norris (2000) believe that in focusing on the characteristics and abnormalities and through discovering the causes which distinguish a criminal from a normal person, individual positivism allows for, and is a more humane and effective way of controlling crime.

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