Sociological School Of Criminal Law

Sociological School Of Criminal Law


a trend in bourgeois criminal law that originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The views of the adherents of the sociological school are often eclectic and seem to be a compromise between the classical and anthropological schools of criminal law. The sociological school deals with problems of crime and punishment (classical trend) and the personality of the criminal (anthropological trend). With regard to the criminal personality and the causes of crime, the sociological school, recognizing not only biological but also societal explanations for human behavior, subscribes to the theory advanced by E. Ferri, a follower of C. Lombroso, that a variety of factors contribute to criminal behavior. Many sociological criminologists have maintained that criminality depends on biological factors (including heredity), physical factors (season, climate, time of day), and societal factors.

Sociological criminologists believed that the science of criminal law encompasses criminal law in the narrow sense (formulation of law), criminology, and the measures adopted by a society to prevent crime. Some felt that the science should also include penology—the study of the treatment of offenders. The most prominent representatives of the sociological school of criminal law during its formative period included F. von List and G. Aschaffenburg (Germany), C. Stooss (Austria), G. Tarde and J. Lacassagne (France), A. Prins (Belgium), G. van Hamel (Netherlands), and I. Ia. Foinitskii, Chubinskii, and S. V. Poz-nyshev (Russia).

Today, the influence of the sociological school is appreciable, especially in the United States. The school has given rise to a number of theories about the causes of crime and the methods of crime prevention. According to one theory, technological progress is to be regarded as an all-embracing cause of criminality. (This view provided the basis for the Fourth UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, held in Japan in 1970.) Adherents of this view analyze only the superficial causes of crime, ignoring the real causes, which are rooted in the socioeconomic basis of an exploitative regime.

There are several variants of the sociological school of criminal law. The theory of differential association of E. Sutherland, for example, regards crime as an age-old phenomenon resulting from contact within small groups. The representatives of the theory of social disorganization (R. Quinney, J. Pinatel, E. Schur, R. Clark, T. Sellin, D. Taft) proceed from the assumption that crime results from anomie, that is, a breakdown in the power of social norms to regulate men’s actions, both with regard to the immediate environment and the society as a whole; they see “culture conflict” as the cause of crime (sociocultural theory). The theory that crime is to be accounted for by a multiplicity of factors (Guerry, Stanius) distinguishes two groups of criminogenic factors. The first relates to personality and takes into consideration heredity, race, sex, age, psychological makeup, ability to deal with others, and mental faculties. The second group pertains to a person’s surroundings and takes into consideration social disorganization, urbanization, family, education, immediate environment, and use of free time.


Gertsenzon, A. A. Vvedenie v sovetskuiu kriminologiiu. Moscow, 1965.
Kuznetsova, N. F. Sovremennaia burzhuaznaia kriminologiia. Mos cow, 1974.