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    Rational Choice Theory

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    (1) Give Background of the theorist associated with the selected theory.
    o The person's educational background
    o The person's professional background
    o List of theories that the individual has developed

    (2) The social, political, and economic situation of the country at the time of the writing of the theory.

    (3) description of the criticism of the theory.

    (4) description of how the theory has been altered, modified, and expanded by other theorists.

    (5) A summary of the use of the theory today. While writing the summary, focus on the question, "Is the theory still popular? Why? Where and how is this theory being applied in today's context?"

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    Solution Preview

    Let's take a look at some research that you can draw on for each section, which can act as an outline for your paper. I also added some links and excerpts for further research and a document attached, some of which this response is drawn. This should make it fairly easy to take it to the next step and write your final copy.


    (1) Give Background of the theorist associated with the selected theory.

    o The person's educational background

    The rational choice theory has a long history going back to the 1700s, and was inspired by a man named Cesare Beccaria. At that time, his utilitarian views and ideas were widely accepted throughout Europe and the United States. "Cesare Beccaria applied the an Enlightenment analysis to crime and punishment, and to the ugliness of the traditional legal and penal system". (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/18beccaria.html, attached as Cesare.docx)

    o The person's professional background

    Cesare Beccaria was born (1738 to1794) into an Aristocratic family in Milan Italy. He was educated in the Jesuit college at Parma, and achieved his degree in 1758. In 1761, he married married Teresa di Blasco. (http://www.constitution.org/cb/beccaria_bio.htm).

    Cecare had an impressive and productive professional life. He was an Italian philosopher and politician best known for his treatise On Crimes and Punishments (1764), which condemned torture and the death penalty, and was a founding work in the field of penology. Cecare also formed a group, with fellow professional associates and very close friends, Pietro and Alessandro Verri, and they together formed a society later known as the "academy of fists". This group was "dedicated to waging relentless war against economic disorder, bureaucratic petty tyranny, religious narrow-mindedness, and intellectual pedantry" (Paolucci, pg.xii). Beccaria become interested in reading the enlightened authors of France and England, and while he said very little, he did write essays that his friends assigned him. His first publication was "On Remedies for the Monetary Disorders of Milan in the Year 1762." (Cited in http://www.constitution.org/cb/beccaria_bio.htm)

    Initially, his aptitude appeared to be in-mathematics, but the study of Montesquieu redirected his attention towards economics. In 1762 was his first publication on the disorder of the currency in the Milanese states, with a proposal for its remedy. During this time Beccaria, with the brothers Alessandro and Pietro Verri and a number of other young men from the Milan aristocracy formed a literary society, which was named "L'Accademia dei pugni" (the Academy of Fists), a playful name that made fun of the stuffy academies which proliferated in Italy. In November 1768, Beccaria was appointed to the chair of law and economy, founded expressly for him at the Palatine college of Milan. His lectures on political economy, which are based on strict utilitarian principles, are in marked accordance with the theories of the English school of economists. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cesare,_Marquis_of_Beccaria)

    o List of theories that the individual has developed

    Beccaria's theory of rational choice helped to eliminate cruel and unusual punishment in the nineteenth century, which at the time was very common, and formed the basis for the classical theory of crime, a school of thought that influenced the French Revolution and the establishment of the Eighth Amendment in the United States Constitution. He had some different ideas, such as:

    ? Instead, Beccaria argued that people choose to engage in all behavior, criminal and non-criminal, and without the fear and certainty of severe punishment for criminal offenses, people will continue to choose to commit those crimes.
    ? Additionally, he believed that all individuals possess free will. People use free will to make rational decisions, such as whether or not the personal benefits are worth the risk of violating the law by committing a crime. It is by free will that people are able to follow through with those "rational" decisions.
    ? To Beccaria, punishment should address prevention rather than revenge.
    ? He also argued that the only way to deter criminals from continuing to commit more serious offenses is to ensure that the punishment is well suited for the crime. (http://criminology.wikia.com/index.php?title=Rational_Choice_Theory&action=edit&section=2)

    ? In other words, the punishment should only be severe enough to outweigh the personal benefits gained from committing the crime. If this were not the case, minor offenses would be punishable by the same sanctions as more serious offenses, making it more logical for an offender to commit a more serious crime and suffer the same consequences, a concept that is today referred to as marginal deterrence.
    ? Bentham, a British philosopher, elaborated on Beccaria's views and proposed the idea that people choose their actions by whether or not they produce happiness and avoided unpleasant conditions. With this perspective, laws were created to keep its community happy and punishment is only justified if it is used as a method of prevention. More specifically, the purpose of punishment is to provide a cheap method of preventing all criminal offenses, to ensure that a criminal does not use any unnecessary force, and if possible, to convince a criminal to commit a less serious crime. However, this "popularity of the classical theory peaked in the 1800s but began to decline and was eventually neglected altogether by the majority of criminologists by the end of the twentieth century". (http://criminology.wikia.com/index.php?title=Rational_Choice_Theory&action=edit&section=2)

    Also see http://www.umsl.edu/~keelr/200/ratchoc.html.


    Central Concepts/Hypotheses

    According to the rational choice theory, criminals are people who share the same goals and ambitions as ordinary citizens, but choose to obtain those goals by illegitimate means. The rational choice theory is based on the assumption that before choosing to commit a crime, the criminal considers personal factors or motivation for the crime, such as their immediate need for benefits, revenge, or excitement, and also situational factors, such as the severity of the consequences and the risk of apprehension. The moment the decision is made to follow through with an unlawful action that will benefit the offender, a crime has been committed.

    The rational choice approach distinguishes the difference between crime, an event, and criminality, a personality trait, by proposing the idea of offense-specific and offender-specific crimes. An ...

    Solution Summary

    By addressing the questions, this solution addresses the various aspects of Rational Choice Theory. References are provided.