chapter  1
24 Pages

Theories, Methods, Politics and Problems

The influence of positivism Modern criminology has its roots in the mid-nineteenth century and particularly in the challenge to classical thinking represented by positivism. Early classical thinking emphasized free will and therefore portrayed crime as the outcome of voluntary actions based upon rational calculation. It was suggested that individuals committed crimes when they saw the benefits of law-breaking as far outweighing the costs or potential costs. Positivism succeeded in portraying an altogether different conception of crime and also in providing a different basis for its explanation. For example, crime was seen as something into which the individual was propelled by factors largely beyond his or her control and not as an activity into which he or she could freely enter after careful and rational balancing of costs and benefits. Thus positivism involved forms of explanation based upon determinism and the search for causes. Crime and criminality were dependent variables to be explained, and the search was for explanatory or independent variables upon which crime and criminality could be said to be dependent.