Dialogue between Beccaria, Lombroso and Durkheim
Criminology, as every science, relies on facts and evidence. This paper is aimed at creating a dialogue between three criminologists of the nineteenth century Beccaria, Lombroso and Durkheim; in this discussion, they will explain their points of view and try to implement their theories into the reality at the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty first century.
Their doctrines were a response to the processes of industrialization and the modernization in the 18th and 19th centuries; they aimed to promote cohesion and rationality in the society (Vold & Bernard, 1986, p. 101) Lombroso and Beccaria are sitting in a bright living room drinking tea and waiting for Durkheim to join them. While the criminologist has not come yet, they have time to talk and discuss each other’s works: Beccaria: Good afternoon, Mr. Lombroso. How are you doing?
Lombroso: Good afternoon, Mr. Beccaria. Fine, thanks. What about you? Beccaria: I’m also fine, thank you. I should compliment you: recently I have read your work The Criminal Man (1911) and it appeared to be fantastic; I must admit that your point of view is rather interesting; but I have not understood the way you distinguish those three classes of criminals. Lombroso: I will gladly explain you that. Three types of criminals are: Atavist, Criminaloid and Insane criminal.
Atavists are the criminals that reproduce the most ferocious characters of a wild animal or a primitive man, which explains that they are well recognized by large jaws, prominent superciliary arches, solitary lines in the palms, their orbits are of extremely large size, handle-shaped or sessile ears found in criminals, they are insensible to pain, have extremely acute sight, their bodies are covered with tattoos, excessive idleness, they love to participate in orgies and have the irresistible craving for evil for its own sake, the desire not only to extinguish life in the victim but to mutilate the corpse, tear its flesh and drink its blood. (Lombroso, 2006, p. 101) Becaria: Remember the case of the Op shop vandalism?
I suppose that those teenagers, who have robbed this shop, may be classified as Atavists. Am I right? Lombroso: Exactly. Now let me explain you about two other types of criminals. Criminaloids are respectable persons, who carefully and thoroughly hide their criminal nature from society. They enjoy being respected and realizing that nobody knows about their other “me”. Criminaloids usually connect their occupation with law or they work for government, which makes it easier for them to hide their crimes.
Besides, Criminaloids tend to commit misdemeanors rather than felonies. Insane criminals are mentally ill and not born to be criminals as Criminaloids or Atavists. Insane criminals commit crimes because “of an alteration of the brain, which completely upsets their moral nature” (Lombroso, 2006, pp. 14-15). I would say that to such category belong alcoholics, kleptomaniacs, child molesters. Beccaria: I must admit that your theory is rather interesting. Knowing what type of criminal a detective faces, he will know how to punish him or her and where to search for an offender. Lombroso: Yes, but it is not as easy as it may seem.
Nowadays, it is very popular among teenagers to have piercing and tattoos or behave aggressively; on the other hand, that does not mean that they are Atavists, it is only the way of expressing themselves. Beccaria: To my mind, Mr. Lombroso, your theory is not perfect. I am sure that there are no those, who were born to be criminals; we live in a free country, and every person is willing to choose what he or she wants; therefore, I am sure that if a person is a criminal, he or she has chosen to act so. I do not say that your approach is not right, but it cannot be implemented in life.
Lombroso: I have read your book On Crimes and Punishment, where you have presented your own point of view on this issue. I know that you think that there are two characteristics to explain a human behavior: rationality and intelligence. However, I cannot understand how this is related to criminology. Beccaria: Let me explain you, my dear Lombroso. Let us take as an example the case, we have discussed before, the case of the Op shop vandalism. Those juveniles, who were committing this misdemeanor, thought that they would have some particular profit out of this robbery.
“Every single individual is said to be not the servant but the master or manipulator of his/her fate. They are more possessed of free will rather than driven by spiritual phenomena” (Vold & Bernard, 1986, pp. 8-9). They were acting according to their free will; they wrongly thought that they will have some benefit after this act of vandalism. Lombroso: I cannot agree to you, my dear friend Beccaria. Some criminals, it does not matter whether they are Atavists, Criminaloids or Insane criminals, commit some crimes driven only by some particular obsession.
For example, Atavists are born criminals, they have no other choice, but to commit crimes, it is their nature. I have talked to those criminals who belong to three different types, and those who are Atavists did not even confess that they have committed a crime. To my mind, criminals are not something extraordinary, they are a part of the modern society, and one cannot do anything with this. Those teenagers, as I have already mentioned, looked like Atavists, they act in a different way in order to feel special.
How do you think, why do they have tattoos? Because this reflects their inner insensitivity to pain and their love to adornment (Lombroso, 2006, pp. 84). Durkheim: Good afternoon, my dear friends, Mr. Lombroso, Mr. Beccaria. I am sorry for being late. I suppose you have been discussing some interesting issues about modern criminology without me, have not you been? Lombroso: Yes, you are right, Mr. Durkheim. We were trying to explain each other our theories about criminals, and why they become criminals. I was trying to prove Mr.
Beccaria that there are three types of criminals, and that they are not extraordinary, their criminal nature is what they were born with; it is something like a mental disorder. Besides, I cannot agree to Mr. Beccaria that people commit crimes, because they want to do so. Durkheim: I see. I have read your book The Criminal Man, dear Lombroso. Your theory is rather interesting, although I think that in this very discussion you were too much aggressive with Mr. Beccaria. To my mind, criminal conduct is not something ordinary nowadays; I think that everything is determined by society.
Social factors are highly significant and they influence the way a person acts. The point is not that a person has some internal or external reasons to commit a crime; sometimes, a person is driven by social factors. “A social fact is however normal in relation to a given social type at a given phase of its development, when it’s present in the average society of that species at the corresponding phase of its evolution” (Durkheim, 1982, p 65). Beccaria: I suppose that your theory is based predominantly on the way how society influences criminals and not vice versa. Durkheim: Yes, you are right.
I suppose that all world’s societies are of two types, according to how the labor is divided there: Organic societies and Mechanical societies. Organic societies are more complex; people, who live in such social groups, are more differently employed, they have more opportunities to find job. Mechanical societies, on the other hand, are primitive; they are isolated from other social classes and are relatively self-dependent. They have almost identical life conditions, and they do the same job, all they have one occupation. Lombroso: Do you want to say that a person is more likely to commit a crime in a Mechanical society? Durkheim: Yes, you are right, my dear Lombroso.
For a mechanic society, crime is normal; besides, I think that there are no societies in the world, where people are not significantly different from the collective type (Durkheim, 1982, p. 70). Let me explain you. Imagine a perfect society, for example, a society of saints; it is a mechanical type of social group. If a person in an organic society, which is an ordinary society, the one we live in, commits a cruel crime, there will be a scandal; the same situation will be if somebody from a mechanical society, from a society of saints, does something wrong, which in an organic society will not be even noticed.
If we define what crime is and such criminal behaviors subsists no more in a society, the new criminal behaviors will appear and replace the old ones. However, in organic societies, such quick changes, which appear because of the increasing division of labor, may lead to social rules confusion, and a person may feel lost in this particular society. All social norms break down, and it leads to the appearing of the Anomie. (Durkheim, p. 70) Lombroso: Anomie? Do you mean that it can be a kind of disorder of a society? Beccaria: I suppose, it is possible.
Durkheim: You both are right. We are not ready for our society to be changed; it does not matter whether changes are high or low. If society is changed, people who live in this society begin to panic, which leads to the increasing quantity of suicides, people are used to stability. Instability means abnormality. Human appetites are excessive; if some of the goal is unreachable, a person may become depressed and unhappy; on the other hand, people can be limited only by one thing. Lombroso: I cannot agree with you that human appetites are excessive.
Durkheim: They are, my dear friend Lombroso; the point is that sometimes those appetites are reduced by some social factors, for example, economic crisis. Economic crisis is a kind of disaster, which makes a person not only be unhappy or depressed, but also commit suicides. Thought I should admit that such anomie will be worse in an abrupt growth or power and wealth. The original needs can no longer remain but they are not able in accustoming to the new condition. The richer situation will always stimulate the appetites and make them more exigent and impatient of control. (Durkheim, 1997, pp. 246-247).
Do you remember the case of three teenagers, who robbed the Op shop? Beccaria: Yes, we have also used this case as an example explaining our theories. Durkheim: That is good. Those three teenagers have committed the crime because of the process of modernization; the society is changing, and teenagers have an unstable state of mind, which makes it more possible that they commit an offence. This act of vandalism is only their way to show how frustrated they are; how frustrated people in our society are because of coming changes.
Beccaria: What about punishment for these crimes? Durkheim: First of all, we should understand that in a mechanical society, law is far more oppressive, while in an organic society, laws are to restitute. In mechanical societies, people are bound to be punished for violating the law, whereas in organic societies, punishments are meant to restore a normal functioning of the society. Lombroso: Those three teenagers have committed a crime, and they should be penalized; besides they are Atavists, which means that they were born to be criminals.
Durkheim: I agree to you that they have violated the law and should receive a penalty. Nevertheless, their punishment should be fair and effective. The role of judges is only to determine guilt, whereas the role of legislators is to determine crimes and punishment. Besides, I think that it is the extent of damage that should determine the seriousness of an offence. Sometimes, the intention itself may cause bad results. Besides, before those boys were punished, nobody said anything about the purpose of those juveniles.
The punishment for those teenagers should not be too severe; it will be ridiculous if those juveniles are sentenced to death or life imprisonment (Durkheim, p. 357). One more essential problem is that people suppose that a criminal should be punished as fast as possible; they think it is more effectively. Finally, it is better to forestall a crime than to penalize a perpetrator. My theory is that a crime itself is a disease, an illness; therefore, the punishment should be compensation.
What I want to say is that in order to be a relevant compensation, a punishment should fulfill its role. “If crime is not pathological, the object of punishment cannot be to cure it. ” (Durkheim, pp. 72-75) Lombroso: Your ideas are remarkable to a considerable degree, my dear friend. I suppose they will be useful not only for our modern society, but also for future generations. Beccaria: I think that all the ideas we have heard today will be useful for future criminologists. Thank you, my dear friends, for such a pleasant discussion.