M. Pifferi (ed.), The Limits of Criminological Positivism (Routledge, 2022)

M. Pifferi, The Limits of Criminological Positivism. The Movement for Criminal Law Reform in the West, 1870-1940 (Abingdon: Routledge, 2022)


The Limits of Criminological Positivism: The Movement for Criminal Law Reform in the West, 1870-1940 presents the first major study of the limits of criminological positivism in the West and establishes the subject as a field of interest.

The volume will explore those limits and bring to life the resulting doctrinal, procedural, and institutional compromises of the early twentieth century that might be said to have defined modern criminal justice administration. The book examines the topic not only in North America and western Europe, with essays on Italy, Germany, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Finland but also the reception and implementation of positivist ideas in Brazil. In doing so, it explores three comparative elements: (1) the differing national experiences within the civil law world; (2) differences and similarities between civil law and common law regimes; and (3) some differences between the two leading common-law countries. It interrogates many key aspects of current penal systems, such as the impact of extra-legal scientific knowledge on criminal law, preventive detention, the ‘dual-track’ system with both traditional punishment and novel measures of security, the assessment of offenders’ dangerousness, juvenile justice, and the indeterminate sentence. As a result, this study contributes to a critical understanding of some inherent contradictions characterizing criminal justice in contemporary western societies.

Written in a straight-forward and direct manner, this volume will be of great interest to academics and students researching historical criminology, philosophy, political science, and legal history.