SOC209H5 Chapter Notes - Chapter 4: Jeremy Bentham, Converting Vegetarians, Social Control Theory

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11 Apr 2013
Chapter Four – Classical Theories of Deviance & Their Influence on
Modern Jurisprudence
Jurisprudence- law and principles that govern court decisions
The deviant was no longer seen as a creature possessed by devils. He was a
rational person who made self-serving choices.
Five central tenets:
People are hedonistic – they seek pleasure & avoid pain
They have free will – they choose whether to commit offenses or
conform to rules when solving problems
Society is in the form of a ‘social contract’ where each individual
gives up some of his hedonistic pleasure to partake of the ‘greater
good’ provided by social order
Punishment is justified as a means of transforming this hedonistic
calculation so performance of duty is more rewarding than following a
criminal path
Chief goal in life is not to achieve salvation but to reach the utilitarian
goal – ‘greatest good for the greatest number’
Paradigm of classical school:
Includes explanation of noncriminal forms of deviance
We could also weigh the likelihood that our actions may cause friends
to shun us, family to disown us.
Classical view could be described as ‘non causal’ [due to emphasis on
free will]; it does invoke pain and pleasure as causal factors
Classical view became dominant during centuries where ideas of
religion, rationality and science overlapped and competed with one
another in a violent, disruptive way.
Ex: Galileo said the earth moved around the sun- a position that was
inconsistent with Church Dogma at the time.
Strongest champions of the changing worldview – Philosophes
they were advocates of a new faith in reason, toleration, materialism,
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Demonic Classical
Time of Dominance 1400-1700 1700-1800
Conception of Deviance Evil Violation of social
Explanation Moral weakness,
Free will & hedonism
Remedies Exorcism, execution Imprisonment
Social Justice
Holy terror was the law of the times
Process of accusation was biased against the powerless
Court officials could easily be bribed
They made up the law as they went along
Growing fear of the ‘dangerous classes’- people who were not under
control of a master and were free to commit offenses
Disastrous wars, periodic return of disaffected soldiers, typhus and
cholera epidemics, gin drunk by the poor because it was affordable,
executions becoming scenes of drunken revelry all these factors
contributed to growing crime & disorder
The philosophes expressed anger over inconsistencies of the social order.
They developed a new vision of how society would be if it was based on
rational principles that would ensure the greatest happiness for the greatest
Voltaire was one courageous crusader of this time. He was imprisoned on
false accusations for 11 months. He wrote two books. He spoke about the
stupidity of those people who took natural disasters as religious phenomena.
**Some of the philosophes said the greatest good is served when each of us
give up some of our freedom to do as we please in order to preserve the
safety and well-being of all [Spoke about the Leviathan- artificial monster
made for our protection and established what is right and wrong.
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Two Reps of Classical School: Cesare Beccaria & Jeremy Bentham
I. Cesare Beccaria
Famous essay on ‘Crimes & Punishments’
He was deeply disturbed by what he heard and saw in prisons
His essay became focal point for action against barbaric
practices in criminal law in Europe and England
Six points:
1. People are motivated by pain/pleasure. Crime is
reasonable behaviour and it doesn’t mean the devil or
2. Basis of social action must be the utilitarian concept of
greatest happiness for greatest number – NOT salvation
or prep for end of the world
3. Each person should give up some of his freedom or
hedonistic pleasure for benefit of whole society
4. Laws should be clearly written, widely known and
uniformly enforced
5. Crime must be considered an injury to society. Any act
of authority of one person over another unless it is out of
absolute necessity is tyrannical; “Punishment should be
in proportion to the seriousness of the crime”; Execution
is not justifiable as it can’t be reversed if an error is
6. Punishment is only justified on grounds that it helps
prevent further criminal behaviour.
II. Jeremy Bentham
Had a vision of social reform based on utilitarianism- principle
that all things should be organized in a way to ensure max
happiness for greatest number.
Founder of sect of utilitarian
Emphasized hedonistic pleasure
Nature has placed mankind under two sovereign masters: Pain
& Pleasure
Developed idea of felicific calculus actions are evaluated
based on tendency to produce either pain or pleasure. This
calculus would include pain and pleasures of wealth, desire,
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