Classical Theories of Crime

In criminology there are Biological/Biosocial and Classical theories of crime which have been existence since 1700. The main concepts of these theories are based on concepts that relate to economics, government and social groups. A major concern in this paper is to address matters relating to whether the use of biological or biosocial concepts has value in contrast to classical theory. Difference between the theories also is a major consideration with an attempt of comparing current control practices as per provisions of each theory.

The founding fathers heavily considered economic theories of John Locke and classical theories relating to government and social groups. The provisions of classical school of thought majorly addressed matters of crime, legal redress and law making process. Prior to establishment of classical and biosocial theories, the judicial systems and law making process were tied to religious structure. Enforcement of laws basically dealt with interpretation which related to the ruling class. The law was used as a political tool that dealt with individuals who were against teachings of church.

The classical theory basically focuses on individual and choice whereby each individual is deemed to make decisions based on benefit and cost. The Classical theory also tries to explain human behavior in terms of minimization of suffering and maximization on pleasure (Denno, 1994). It establishes the existence of natural rights justified through existence of government as a social entity. Political belief about classical theory supports the idea that people have the role to serve the needs of the government.

In this aspect, a contractual relationship exists between government and its people which led to existence of a middle class. The main focus thus within Classical theory is to protect individuals rights and the entire society. Protection of individual’s rights through consideration of classical theory has the value or purpose of doing away with criminality. The society is affected by criminal issues as the criminals are within the society. This being the case, Classical theory assumes that it is the responsibility of every citizen to be morally upright and weigh the consequences of engaging in irresponsible behavior.

Human beings are rational and have the consent to act out of freewill thus proponents of classical theory are always against harsh punishments and should be dealt away with. It is assumed that harsh punishment should be replaced with other forms of instilling discipline as it can result to more evil (Ellis & Hoffman, 1990). According to Classical theory sufficient amount of pain should be instilled on criminals who should outweigh gain of pleasure from occurrence of certain act. In correspondence to such provisions of classical theory individual deterrence is imposed to ensure that an individual takes the right decision.

Societal deterrence as per classical theory is a necessity as it ensures that individuals are in a position to understand consequences of engaging in criminal activities. Classical theory is against capital punishment because it is equivalent to murder. The classical theory is seen as a major contributor to French and American revolutions. This is for the reasons that, it embraces equality, fairness in justice administration, right of life and restrictions on state’s actions. In United States the criminal law is based on classical school as it emphasizes on the importance of individual responsibility.

The resurgence of conservative policies in today’s governance is as a result of implementation of punishment as a deterrent. In addition, it is an aspect of making assumption that commission of crimes is rational and results from deliberate choice. Biological or biosocial theory is based on the concept of certain components of individual life that lead to criminality. Some of the provisions according to this school of thought include exposure to toxic substances or head injuries. Damage of particular areas of brain as an individual grows is considered as a common factor in criminals.

Biological/biosocial theory advocates for certain factors that lead to impulsive behavior. Among the considerations include the environment at which a child is raised has an impact in his or her life (Lionel, 2005). A child raised in urban cities subjected to pollutants such as lead and toxic industrial emissions results to brain damage. This makes a child develop disorders such as learning disabilities. The consequences of attention deficit include failure to socialize or learn including tendencies of impulsive behavior and inability to transfer instant gratification for future long term gratification.

A major controversy exhibited in biological or biosocial factors is the important role played by the two factors in human behavior. At the same time, the factors fail to recognize the importance played by the two factors in making individual’s tendencies delinquent. A major difference between biosocial and classical theory is that the former considers psychological factors as the main reason that makes an individual to engage in criminal activities. Classical theory is very categorical on factors that make an individual to be a criminal as a matter of individuality and choice.

These are two contrasting provisions which address the issue of criminality in the society. People in the ancient people used scientific theories to explain the root cause of crimes and explain means of dealing with criminality which were considered to be crude. Currently, certain considerations such as social, environment and geographical factors are said to be determinants of criminal behavior. Advocates of biological or biosocial factors in criminality are concerned with individual focus, geographical location and neighborhood as the contributors of anti-social behavior.

Considering individuals instead of social conditions leads to a situation whereby control of crimes becomes a threat as more emphasis is focused on criminal behavior. The crimes against humanity are promoted through evaluation of factors prompted by biological factors (McGuire, 2004). The biosocial or biological theory makes individuals in power to push for control which can lead to discrimination. The difference between classical theory and biological factors in criminology makes supporters of the former fail to agree with philosophical concepts of biosocial factors.

According to classical theory engaging committing crimes is a concept of choice and individuality. These are rational factors as an individual has the right to act out of freewill. One is deemed to consider the consequences of engaging in criminal activities then decide the way forward. The classical idea advocates that criminal behavior is a matter of control, treatment, choice or punishment centered on decisions made by individuals deemed to break the law.

Criminals are always aware of the consequences involved in criminality and this is in contrast to provisions of biosocial factors. Biological, environmental and genetic influences have less influence on the capacity of individuals to engage in criminal activities. This is because it is a breakthrough for humanity which depends on the intentions of people charged with financing and implementation of research programs. All crimes are usually organized through evaluation of certain consequences followed by making of a deliberate choice.


  • Denno, D. (1994). Gender, Crime, and the Criminal Law Defenses. Vol. 85, p. 14-19. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.
  • Ellis, L & Hoffman, H. (1990). Crime in Biological, Social, and Moral Contexts. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers
  • Lionel, C. M. (2005). Theories of Crime and Causation. Retrieved on 2 august 2010 from http://www. vonfrederick. com/pubs/Theories%20of%20Crime%20Causation. pdf
  • McGiure, J. (2004). Understanding Psychology and Crime: Perspectives on Theory and Action. Maidenhead. England: Open University Press.