Enrico Ferri

Enrico Ferri books and biography


Enrico Ferri

Enrico Ferri

Enrico Ferri (1856–1929) was an Italian criminologist and socialist who continued the work of Cesare Lombroso (see Anthropological criminology). However, where Lombroso worked on physiological profiling of criminals, Ferri investigated social and economic factors. His work served as the base for Argentina’s penal code of 1921, and he was the author of Criminal Sociology in 1884 as well as the editor for Avanti, a Socialist daily. His arguments for crime prevention over punishment were eventually rejected by Benito Mussolini after the dictator's rise to power in Italy.



Ferri was born in Lombardy in 1856, and worked as a lecturer and then a professor of Criminal law, having spent time as a student of Cesare Lombroso. Ferri continued the works of his teacher, and while Lombroso researched Anthropological criminology (the physiological identification and profiling of criminals) Ferri focused more on social and economic influences on the criminal and crime rates.

Ferri's research led to him postulating theories calling for crime prevention methods to be the mainstay of law enforcement, as opposed to punishment of criminals after their crimes had taken place, becoming a founder of the Positivist school, researching psychological and social positivism as opposed to the biological positivism of Lombroso.

Ferri, at the time a Radical, was elected to Italian Parliament in 1886. In 1893 he joined the Italian Socialist Party and edited their daily newspaper, the Avanti, and in 1900 and 1904 he spoke out in congress against the roles of socialist ministers in bourgeois governments.

Favouring Italian neutrality during World War I, Ferri was re-elected a socialist party deputy in 1921. however in post-war Italy, he became a support of Mussolini's Fascist regime. He died in 1929.

Literacy works

  • Criminal Sociology (1884)
  • Socialism and Positive Science (1894)
  • The Positive School of Criminology (1901)
  • Criminal Sociology (1905)

Criminology theories

Disputing Lombroso's emphasis on physiological characteristics of criminals, Ferri focused on the study of psychological characteristics which he believed accounted for the development of crime in an individual. These characteristics included slang, handwriting, secret symbols, literature and art, as well as moral insensibility and "a lack of repugnance to the idea and execution of the offence, previous to its commission, and the absence of remorse after committing it" [1].

Ferri argued that sentiments such as religion, love, honour or loyalty did not contribute to criminal behaviour as these ideas were too complicated to have a definite impact on the basic morale sense of a person, the sense by which Ferri believed criminal behaviour stemmed from. Ferri argued that other sentiments, such as hate, cupidity or vanity had a greater influences as they held greater control over a persons morale sense.

Ferri summed up his theory by defining criminal psychology as a "defective resistance to criminal tendencies and temptations, due to that ill-balanced impulsiveness which characterises children and savages"[2].

Political beliefs

Ferri often drew comparisons between socialism and Darwinism, and disputed particular works by Ernst Haeckel that highlighted contradictions between the two schools of thought. Ferri instead argued that Darwinism provided socialism with its key scientific principles[3].

Ferri viewed religion and science as inversely proportional, thus as one rose in strength the other receded. Ferri observed that Darwinism dealt a damaging blow to religion and the origins of the universe according to the church and socialism rose in comparison, thus Ferri argued that socialism was an extension of Darwinism, and that socialism was a step in evolution.[4]


  1. ^ Criminal Sociology. Enrico Ferri (1905)
  2. ^ Criminal Sociology. Enrico Ferri (1905)
  3. ^ Socialism and Positive Science. Enrico Ferri (1894)
  4. ^ "All that is history marching towards socialism, whilst individuals are unable to hinder or retard the succession of the phases of the moral, political and social evolution." -Chapter 5 of Socialism and Positive Science

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