Throughout the course of criminological study, scholars have relied heavily on three different theoretical perspectives, with each perspective budding its own attitude in understanding crime, thus leading to the development of distinctive approaches to preventing and limiting both crime and deviance. Working in harmony with the three different criminological perspectives, scholars and philosophers alike have utilized film in an attempt to draw on widespread attitudes toward crime, victims, law, and punishment prevalent at the time of the films making.
Quintessentially, film history has allowed society to see more clearly, underlying assumptions about the nature of crime in American as well as International society. This perhaps can best be exemplified through a critique of Fernando Meirelles’ “City of God”, through which each perspective’s relevance may be properly scrutinized. Classism Classicism attempts to bring criminology away from early religious explanations and toward reason. Core concepts of classism include the conception that people encompass free will in making decisions.
Knowing this, one can utilize the tool of nductive reasoning to come to the conclusion that punishment, if proportional, fitting to the crime, and carried out promptly, can be a deterrent for crime. Beccaria advocates this using deterrence theory, a theory that emphasizes rational choice. The theory considers one’s ability to ration between risk and punishment. Understanding this ability to ration, Beccaria illustrates three basic tenants; certainty of punishment, swiftness of punishment, and severity of punishment, which he considers to be fundamental in the deterrence of crime.
Bentham advances the notion of people making decisions ased upon what is believed to be in the best interest of the individual. He contends that people make everyday choice using a cost vs. benefit analysis, through which, individuals seek to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. Bentham reasons that with an understanding of classism one should arrive at the conclusion that punishment should consider degrees of proportionalities, meaning that, harsh penalties are executed for harsh crimes and vice versa in regards to soft crimes.
Critics of classism have contested that the perspective treats crime as extremely rational and as always weighing the consequences of heir actions, when in actuality, violent crime is often irrational, perhaps a result of thrill seeking or an attraction to evil or threat of consequence. The character Lil Ze (Li’l Dice early in the film) appears most comparable to the classicist perspective. Remember that the core component to the perspective is that people encompass free will in making decisions, and that criminals are simply choosing to commit their offenses in weighted decisions of risk and reward.
Li’l Ze, throughout the entirety of the film appears to be “born bad”. If he were to imply have learned from his environment and those of influence around him, Li’l Ze may have never been anything more than a thief; after all, his older influences were not cold- blooded murderers. Proponents may also argue that solutions to criminality suggested through classism would have likely been effective if imposed upon a character such as Li’l Ze.
In his case, strict and harsh penalties would need to be imposed to mirror the callous and ruthless crimes he had committed. Unfortunately, classism does not find overtly strong positive correlations to “City of God”. Positivists and those scholars whom may promote radicalism, which will be discussed later, would likely argue that Li’l Ze is a product of his environment. Research has indicated that factors, such as growing up in poverty along with the presence of daily violence, are bound to affect the human psyche.
Critics may also argue against the imposition of harsh confinement or cooperate penalties, attesting that the crimes committed by Li’l Ze are extremely irrational, and easily identifiable as a result of the thrill that comes with running a drug empire, as well as the pure evil ithin him. Positivism Positivism was established during the 1880’s as a new alternative criminological perspective that was based on carefully collected facts through research.
The perspective attempted to go beyond reason to adopt a scientific paradigm, originating with the philosophical theories of Lombroso and his interpretation of Criminal Anthropology. Lombroso brought forth the argument that although the study of crime in itself was important, that specific time should be given to the study of the criminals themselves. According to Lombroso’s research, those ndividuals whom held certain physical characteristics and attributes, such as the mesomorph body type, were more prone to criminal activity to others.
This early form of positivism, although highly criticized, is perhaps most important in its role as the seed that would eventually grow into contemporary positivism. Contemporary positivism is conventionally observed as having replaced the proposal of free will with the doctrine of determinism, a point of view, which claims to account for criminality in terms of factors, either external or internal, which ause them to act in a way over which they have little or control. A key difference between positivism and classism in regards to criminology lies in the solution to the problem.
Where as classism focuses on punishment and incapacitation, contemporary positivism focuses rehabilitation. Supporters of rehabilitation contend that the offender’s behavior is related to a particular personal defect stemming from one’s psychological makeup or from an adverse environment. This view suggests that the offender can actually be transformed into a pro-social, law abiding citizen. Turning focus back towards the film, “City of God” does in fact demonstrate certain aspects, which are posivistic in nature.
The film appears to accept positivism’s claim that crime stems not strictly from an individuals free will, but instead from internal and external factors beyond the control of the offender specifically through death of Knockout Ned’s character as he spirals into a grudge war saturated in revenge against Li’l Ze. Prior to the terrorization brought upon Ned, including the rape of his girlfriend as well as the murder of his brother and his uncle, Ned was well known throughout the community to be a peaceful man.
This begs the original criminological question, why did the individual focused upon engage in criminal activity, and in the case of Knock out Ned, to such an excessive extent? Positivism would argue that Ned’s self destruction was not simply, as a classicist might propose, a direct result of his free will, but in fact a result of a variety of psychological factors. It would not, after all, be difficult to understand that the psychological effect of witnessing the rape and murder of loved ones could push the human psyche past it’s logical and reasonable limits into a deep violent psychosis, as n the case of Knockout Ned.
Positivism would suggest that the solution in dealing with a character such as Knockout Ned would be intense rehabilitation, with the hope that his psyche could be repaired and that he may return back into society as a functioning citizen of the community. Studies have indicated that in the case of intense loss, carious forms of counseling are not only helpful, but also necessary for an individual’s recovery. Regrettably, such services are highly unavailable in Rio de Janeiro.
Radicalism In proposing that offenders freely and willfully engage in crime, lassicism is faulted for neglecting the social context of law breaking. Additionally, while positivism tends to take into account environmental factors as they affect criminal behavior, there are limitations for rehabilitation, particularly if rehabilitation simply means providing the disadvantaged with the necessary skills to survive under adverse societal conditions.
Deriving from the social and economic writings of Karl Marx, who found himself concerned with the exploitation of the underclass workers by their employers and the plight of huge segments of society that have never gained from the capitalist tructure, radicalism places less emphasis on the individual offender than classism, and turns greater attention to society that positivism.
Radicalism proposes that a pattern of law breaking and punishment stems from structured political, economic, and racial inequalities and disparities in American society, thus long term effectiveness in crime prevention depends on broad social reforms that alleviate poverty and other social problems.
A few assumptions essential to perspective are that first; Conflict, domination, and repression are elements of capitalistic society, second; A majority of crime n capitalist society is a result of inherent contradictions of capitalist social organization, third; Laws and criminal justice system generally protect interests of the powerful to the disadvantage of the powerless, fourth; Criminal justice only makes sense in a larger context of social justice, and finally; Capitalism generates poverty as capitalism is not designed to distribute wealth evenly and unemployment is just as necessary as employment itself.
Radicalism is the strongest perspective in regards to “City of God”. The perspective could arguably pertain to every character in the film. Perhaps asking the question, “Would the plot be possible if the setting took place in a wealthy community, rather than the slums of Rio,” may best explain the significance of the perspective? Radicalism argues that one can empathize with the reasons for the crimes certain characters commit throughout the film, by observing the appalling poverty each character is faced with. A similar problem can be studied in America’s own inner cities.
The reason for the rise of drug empires is directly linked to poverty. Proponents of this theory argue that those faced with the decision to starve or watch their amilies suffer, or sell drugs, steal and commit other crimes to avoid such consequences associated with extreme poverty, will likely do what is necessary for survival. It can be argued that this is exactly what is happening in the film. Decades of political corruption and economic poverty have led the characters to adapt to an adverse environment where one will do anything in order to survive.
In essence, Radicalism would argue that the solution to the crime within the film, would be to restructure the community as well as restoration of wealth, which would in turn lead to a sense of pride within the community. The theory here is comparable to another well-known theory in criminology known as “broken windows” whereby scholars believe by “fixing community windows” or cleaning up the community, crime will be reduced. Conclusion A successful example of a combination of the three perspectives can be observed while studying the development of Rocket’s character.
He, unlike many of the other characters understands his place in society. He commits his small acts of criminal deviance throughout the entirety of the film, however before the credits roll, is able to escape the political and economic stranglehold the characters of the film are all bound by. Through his photography, Rocket is able to escape the drudgeries of the society he grew up in, and presumably because of this escape, a new non-criminally deviant character is born.
Classism, in its explanation of the desire to maximize pleasure and minimize pain appears to be a convincing rationalization regarding Rocket’s small drug use. He is choosing to do drugs because of his free will and desire to increase pleasure through the use of drugs. Positivism and radicalism also plays a role in Rockets development, as one may argue that various factors throughout his environment may have also led to his deviance.
Moreover, growing up in a society where such behavior is acceptable or at least unenforced, because of structural issues throughout the community, can thus be argued as conditions leading to Rocket’s deviance. Finally, solutions offered such as rehabilitation, soft punishment for soft deviance, and a political and economic restructuring throughout the community, would all appear sufficient solutions to deviance regarding the films main character.
In recapitalization, each of he three theoretical perspectives, although different in many aspects, finds commonality in the film, “City of God”. Contemporary classicism offers the “just desserts” that matches retribution to the severity of the offense. Such a theory sheds light on the reasoning behind the criminality of characters such as Li’l Ze, who because of the way his childhood is depicted, appears to be a character simply searching to maximize pleasure through choices governed by free will.
The concept of harsh punishment for harsh acts also holds ground regarding Li’l Ze, as rehabilitation of such a purely evil character may render useless. The positivist view promotes treatment administered by well-trained experts who understand how to deal with an array of individual problems that contribute to criminal behavior. Programs are developed to address substance abuse, counseling, education, and job training, all of which would benefit the vast majority of characters in the film.
Radicalism supports rehabilitation, but shifts focus to the economic structures that perpetuate inequality. This concept holds equal importance to rehabilitation. Whereas rehabilitation focuses on the individual once already deviant, the radicalsitic perspective attempts to construct a politically sturdy and economically strong community, in order to prevent criminality before it starts. Each perspective, as proven by the film “City of God”, holds relevance in contemporary society, thus demanding further study through not only film, but reality as well.