Sociology Index

POSITIVE SCHOOL

Verstehen, Positivism

In criminology Positive School refers to the first scientific school consisting of the Italian criminologists Cesare Lombroso, Raffaelo Garofalo and Enrico Ferri. Positive School supports the assumptions of positivism and argue that criminality is determined, the effect in a cause-effect sequence, and that the mandate of the study of crime and criminology should be to search for these causes.

It was believed that with the exception of those deemed to be ‘born criminals’, the discovery of the causes of crime would allow for effective treatment. The old objects of punishment have been severely altered. Criminals are to be treated, not punished. Reformation is to be applied with discrimination to the various classes of criminals.

Positive School therefore adopts a medical model (crime as sickness) and advocates rehabilitative ideal, that is,  rehabilitation of offenders, indeterminate sentences, and the dominance of professionals in correctional decision-making. The Positive School would not hold the individual responsibility for crime, since they are determined by forces beyond his control.

Prevention of crime by discovering as early as possible those with characteristics likely to lead to delinquency, altering the external conditions which make for crime, and throwing around each person the influences which make for social behavior, is receiving primary emphasis. The shift from individual to social responsibility for crime has also resulted in the rise of Juvenile Courts, indeterminate sentences and wider attempts at social control of crime.

The Positive School of Criminology by Enrico Ferri - The positive school of criminology, was born in our own Italy through the singular attraction of the Italian mind toward the study of criminology; and its birth is also due to the peculiar condition our country with its great and strange contrast between the theoretical doctrines and the painful fact of an ever increasing criminality.

Changing Representations of the Criminal 
Dario Melossi, University of Bologna.
I hypothesize that, in a somewhat cyclical fashion, at least since the inception of modernity and criminological thought in the nineteenth century, representations of crime and criminals have been oscillating between two different social attitudes. A sympathetic attitude toward criminals has emerged in social periods when good economic conditions, optimism, a tendency toward liberalism and low imprisonment rates, tended to prevail. At such juncture (at least some) criminals were seen as innovators fighting against an unjust and suffocating social order, and punishment as playing a rehabilitative and experimental role. In other periods, criminals were seen instead with antipathy, and portrayed as monstrosities, evil forces fighting the very foundations of a social fabric and a moral order that should be defended at all cost.
I give illustrations of such oscillating attitudes, as far as the domain of criminological thought is concerned, by considering more specifically: the Italian Positive School, the Chicago school of sociology and differential association theory, the labelling theory of the 1960s/1970s, and what I term the‘revanche criminology’ of the‘crisis decades’ after 1973.