CRIM 2650 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Cesare Lombroso, Cerebral Cortex, Genetic Linkage

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12 Oct 2016
CRIM 2650 The Positivist School of Criminology
September 29, 2016
Assumptions of Biological Positivism about Individuals
- Are not active agents with free-will (contra-classical approach)
- Rather their actions are determined by biological (Early Biological
Positivism) or bio-social factors
Assumptions of Biological and Bio-Social Positivism about Society
- Society is composed of unequal individuals
Some individuals are inferior to or different from others
- Policy implication = Inferior or different ones should be cured, intervened,
controlled, or excluded
Historical Background: Darwin
- Theory of Evolution: Humans had evolved from more primitive beings. The
idea of natural selection is key to evolution (asserts the idea that some
species adapted to their environments)
- Survival of the fittest
Some species even compete with each other
Darwinisims I: Social Darwinism
- Government intervention makes societies unhealthier because it interferes
with human competition
Interrupting evolution, therefore making the human population weaker
Social Darwinism is usually always against governmental support
- Colonialism and Europeanism
Social Darwinism was used to justify the dominance of White Europeans
over the rest of the world
- I.e. Eugenics
Biologically unfit should be eliminated through sterilization (unable to
Alternative Darwinism
- Darwin also talks about the web of life in the natural world and
interdependence of animals
- Darwin argued that cooperation between individuals at the group level and
altruistic behaviour played positive roles in evolution
- Darwin predicted a peaceful, cooperative, and ethical future for human
- Peter Kropotkin argued that mutual aid is a feature of the greatest
importance for the maintenance of life, the presentation of each species and
its further evolution – he believed in cooperation
He realized that it was corporations, not cooperation that was helping
humans to survive
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Human Nature: Competition or Cooperation?
- Both classical criminology and biological positivist criminology assume that
human being are competitive
- Classical Criminology: Competition among equal rational beings
- Positivist (Biological) Criminology: Some individuals are superior to
others in competition as a result of their biological traits
- Karl Polanyi Argued that individuals began to act based on self-interest and
calculation only after the emergence of capitalist societies.
Socially motivated behaviour (toward THEIR interests) was more
common in traditional societies
I.e. gift giving was a socially accepted behaviour
- Social Constructionist Perspective: Rather than speculation on the nature
of human beings, takes into account how individuals come to understand
their nature in particular social and historical contects
Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909)
- Founder of the Italian School of Positivist Criminology
- His work was first criticized for being biased, sexist, and racist, however it
formed the basis of positivist school of crim
- He was critical of Classical Criminologys assumptions about equality and
- He applied some Darwinism to explain criminal behaviour
- He believed criminals have certain physical characteristics. They are
biologically inferior
I.e. shaping of the skulls
Disproportionate facial features (i.e. big eyes, nose, etc.)
Lombroso and Italian School of Positivisms Critique of Classical Criminology
- Classical criminology does not explain the distribution of crime and why
certain individuals or groups commit crime more than others
- Abstract ideas about rationality, freedom, and responsibility does not fit into
reality; some individuals are inferior than others
- Rather than assuming the principle of deterrence would reduce crime,
inferior individuals should be controlled or eliminated for the overall
health of the society
Atavism (Lombroso)
- People with atavistic characteristics are born criminals
- Born criminals have numerous physical abnormalities and they resemble
primitive beings
Excessive body hair, sloping foreheads, large jaws, long arms, short legs,
Atavistic Women
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