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Introducing Two Criminological Paradigms

Here we consider the underlying assumptions of the two main criminological paradigms regarding:

Human Nature
The Causes of Crime
Responses to Crime
Classicist criminology assumes that the certainty of detection and punishment would deter rational beings from committing crime.

  1. What punishment do you feel is appropriate for Pete?
  2. Do you consider Pete to be a rational actor? Does Pete have control over his behaviour?

Positivists reject the classicist belief in free will and instead consider that individuals commit crime due to factors over which they have no control.

Positivist criminology is varied and has been informed by a wide range of academic disciplines. The three most commonly associated disciplines are:

  1. Biology
  2. Psychology
  3. Sociology

The Criminology Benchmark Statements set out the threshold standards for honours degrees in criminology. The Benchmarks recognise the inter-disciplinary nature of criminology noting that the discipline:

‘draws on a wide range of human and social science disciplines. The subject’s theoretical and methodological development reflects the rapid social changes of contemporary society and is responsive to the cross-fertilisation of ideas and methods between the human and social sciences’ (QAA, 2019: 7)

Criminology is therefore a rendez-vous subject – reflecting the coming together or the meeting of different disciplines, ideas, and methods.

Criminology is both a theoretical and empirical subject and employs a wide variety of perspectives. In its modern form, it is characterised by robust debates over how to:

  1. Conceptualise and explain its subject matter
  2. Put its theories into operation in conducting research
  3. Inform debates over crime control policy; the scope of human rights; the links between criminal and social justice; and the expanding knowledge bases of crime prevention, security, and justice-related professions
  4. Develop and enhance its methodological and technical expertise in handling different kinds of data
  5. Manage sensitive ethnical issues arising from empirical research

© University of Hull
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Introduction to Criminology

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