Neoclassical criminology

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Throughouthistory, factors that motivate individuals to get involved incriminal activities have been an important subject of study.Criminologists and psychologists have developed various theories thatexplain the reasons why individuals are involved in criminalactivities. Some of the neoclassical theories of crime includerational choice theory, deterrence theory and routine activitytheory. The rational choice theory is based on utilitarianprinciples. These principles maintain that before an individual takesaction, he looks at the means and end as well as the cost andbenefits of the action. This means that an individual makes adecision based in a rational choice. Therefore, an individualcommits a crime after weighing the benefits and cost of the action(Gul, 2009). The deterrence theory is also based on utilitarianprinciples. It is based on the view that criminal behaviors can beprevented using the fear of punishment or retribution. Deterrencetheory is one of the major reasoning in the modern criminal justicesystem. Deterrence does not focus on the individual criminal orattempt to make his or her drop the behavior, but rather publiclypunishing the individual in order to deter similar crimes in thesociety in the future (Akers, 2013). Routine activity theory isbased on the principles of crime opportunity theory which emphasizeson the situation in which the crime is committed. The theory arguesthat social factors such as social and economic inequality, povertyand unemployment cannot be used to explain criminal activities.Rather, opportunities to commit crimes in the society motivateindividuals to commit crimes. The opportunity to commit crime ischaracterized by the existence of a suitable target, a likely ormotivated offender and the absence of guardian with enoughcapabilities. Motivated offenders are individuals who havecapabilities of committing crimes as well as willing to commitcrimes. A suitable target is a person or property which is bothvulnerable and attractive to the offender. Absence of a guardian mayinclude inadequate security to secure properties and individuals(Felson et al, 2015).

Afterevaluation the three neoclassical theories of crime, rational choicetheory best explains why individuals made decisions to commit crimes.However, depending on the context, other theories are also valid.This theory best explains decision to commit crimes because itstipulates that an individual analyses both the cost and benefits ofa deviant act. This means that an offender makes an informed and arational choice to make a choice that is motivated by his preferences(Felson et al, 2015). The theory is based of general observation onthe nature of deviant behaviors in the general society. Majority ofcrimes reported in the modern criminal justice system are purposivelydesign to meet specific needs and desires of the offence. Beforecommitting a crime, the offender will analyze ability of the deviantact to meet his needs or desires relative to the cost. For example,a rapist will commit a deviant behavior if the will satisfy hissexual desires and the risks he associates with the act are less.Additionally, armed robbery and white collar crimes such as fraud arebased on the financial and material gain relative to the perceivedcosts or risks. However, this theory is based several such as theability of the offender to make rational decisions and the role ofperceptions about pain and punishment in making choices (Gul, 2009).


Akers,R. (2013). CriminologicalTheories: Introduction and Evaluation,New York, Routledge.

Felson,M. et al (2015). Thecriminal act: the role and influence of routine activity theory.Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan

Gul,S. (2009). “An evaluation of rational choice theory incriminology”. Sociologyand applied science,4(8), 36-44.

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