Monday, October 22, 2012



The positivist views of criminology steered away from the theoretical approach that crime was merely a rational action. It focused on the role of social science predicting social laws that explained how human behaviour was governed. The quantitative methodology and statistical evidence provided from them was seen as vital for explaining crime.

      Positivist explanations of crime became influential because of the impact of Darwinism, the legitimisation of inequality in society and the medicalisation of criminology.

C.Lombroso (Biological Positivism) – This was a theory that developed out of Lombroso’s ideologies. He argued that criminals were biologically different from the rest of society. They were “atavists” that bore specific stigmata which made them more primitative than the rest of civilised society. Because of these primitative biological and physiological traits such as large eye sockets, jaws and high cheek bones made them the ones prone to criminal behaviour. (Criminal Man Editions.)


Sheldon (1949) - Similarly distinguished 3 main types of human physique in the 20th century. These were the:

         Mesomorphs (hard muscular types)

         Ectomorphs (thin fragile types)

         Endomorphs (round fleshy types)

He claimed that the mesomorphic types were the body types correlating with characteristics associated with delinquency. The ectomorphs the thin fragile types were the ones likely to avoid crime and take less risk.




         Studies by Beckwith elaborate on the Medical and Surgical Interventions (e.g. Sterilisation and Lobotomisations)

         1911-30: 64,000 prisoners & mental patients in US forcibly sterilised in order to get rid of the criminal trait.

         Similarly, Allen explains how policies were enforced to incapacitate and eliminate the biological selection deemed as criminals.

         One the plus side it introduced indeterminate sentencing and rehabilitation which promoted the ideology that the criminals needed to be re-socialised because of their biological tendencies.

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