Criminology is a study of causes of crime and methods of prevention. Theword “rendezvous” means “assembling point”, so criminology as a rendezvousdiscipline means that it is multidisciplinary – it is an assembling point for differentacademic disciplines such as psychology, biology, anthropology, sociology andlaw study. Criminal psychologists study and analysis the behaviour and motives ofoffenders in order to evaluate the risk of reoffending; criminal biologists studybiological functions of offenders; anthropology is the study of humans, Lombroso(1871) argued that criminality was inherited, and that “borncriminals” could be identified by physical features, for example, unusual shapeof the head and nose, long arms etc; sociology studies behavior that deviantfrom social norms, and who and how to define the behavior as normal or deviance;law theorists study methods of crime prevention and punishment.
– classical criminology orclassicism was developed in the 18th century and was based onarguments about the causes of crime and how it should be dealt with. – Classicism emphasisfive key principles. The first principle is rationality- the idea that peoplehave free-will, and so criminals make choices to commit crime; hedonism- peopleseek pleasure and avoid costs; punishment as a deterrence for criminal behavior-people are discouraged from committing crimes to avoid punishment; humanrights- the society should respect the right of individuals, for example aperson should not be punished unreasonably harsh for a minor crime; the lastprinciple is due process – people that are accused of a crime are consideredinnocent until proven guilty, they have a chance to prove themselves not guiltyin the judicial system. The classical criminology isproblematic because it did not involve any scientific method until the late19th century, it was not based upon statistical evidence, but instead solely onarguments about the ideology of crime and punishment (Treadwell, 2013: 19). Classicism assumes criminals makechoices to commit crime, but this is not true for all criminals, for example,in a self-defense situation, individuals may not be able to fully control theiraction and thus behaves instinctively; some offenders have no control overtheir actions due to mental disorders. Initially, classicism argued thatevery criminal should be treated as alike and therefore suffers the samepunishment in the same way regardless of the seriousness of their crimes. Thisis problematic because, for example, if a shop-lifter received a life sentenceas a serial killer did, it would be too severe for this crime. Cesare Beccaria (1764) arguedthat in order to provide the most deterrent effect, punishment must be certain-criminals should have a reasonable fear of punishments for their acts; must beclosely associated to the crime; should be proportionate to the crimecommitted.
– The definition ofcriminology is problematic because it is difficult to define criminologyconclusively due to its multidisciplinary nature. For example, sociologists definecriminology in a sociology perspective; psychologists define criminology fromtheir theoretical angle, and so do biologists, anthropologists, and lawtheorists. The definition of crime is also problematic.First, the definition of crime in a legal approach is an act or an absent ofact that violates the law. Crime can also be defined in a normative approach,it can be an act or absent of act that contradicts the social norms of behavior. The legal definition of crime makesidentifying specific instances of criminal behaviour relatively easy, forexample cocaine is illegal for private use in the UK, so no matter how muchcocaine a person is caught carrying for private use, having cocaine in thefirst place is already illegal.
However, it undoes the connection betweencriminal behaviour and morally unacceptable behaviour, for example, ignoring a seriouslywounded person that is trapped in a car is not a crime but it is morallyunacceptable. Another problem is that the legal status of our behaviour dependson the law at the time. For example, homosexual wasn’t decriminalized inEngland and Wales until the late 1960s.
The strength of the normativedefinition is that it restores the connection between criminal behaviour andmorality. However, the limitation of this is that who gets to decide whatbehaviour is socially normal or abnormal. As times change, so do norms. To sum it up, the definition of criminology is problematic due to it multidisciplinarynature, it cannot be defined from one perspective because criminology is a combinationof different academic disciplines such as psychology, biology, sociology,anthropology, and law. It was initially based on arguments about the ideologieson causes of crime and punishment, without the concern of scientific methods.
Crimeis also hard to define because the legal status of behaviour depends on thetime- as times change, the law change.