Background: When I first took measure theory/integration, I was bothered by the idea that the integral of a real-valued function w.r.t. a measure was defined first for nonnegative functions and only then for real-valued functions using the crutch of positive and negative parts (and only then for complex-valued functions using their real and imaginary parts). It seemed like a strange starting point to make the theory dependent on knowledge of the nonnegative function case when this certainly isn't necessary for Riemann integrals or infinite series: in those cases you just take the functions or sequences as they come to you and put no bias on positive or negative parts in making the definitions of integrating or summing.

Later on I learned about integration w.r.t a measure of Banach-space valued functions in Lang's Real and Functional Analysis. You can't break up a Banach-space valued function into positive and negative parts, so the whole positive/negative part business has to be tossed aside as a foundational concept. At the *end* of this development in the book Lang isolates the special aspects of integration for nonnegative real-valued functions (which potentially could take the value $\infty$). Overall it seemed like a more natural method.

Now I don't think a first course in integration theory has to start off with Banach-space valued functions, but there's no reason you couldn't take a cue from that future generalization by developing the real-valued case in the same way Banach-space valued functions are handled, thereby avoiding the positive/negative part business as part of the initial steps.

Finally my question: Why do analysts prefer the positive/negative part foundations for integration when there is a viable alternative that doesn't put any bias on which function values are above 0 or below 0 (which seems to me like an artificial distinction to make)?

Note: I know that the Lebesgue integral is an "absolute" integral, but I don't see that as a justification for making the very definition of the integral require treatment of nonnegative functions first. (Lang's book shows it is not necessary. I know analysts are not fond of his books, but I don't see a reason that the method he uses, which is just copying Bochner's development of the integral, should be so wildly unpopular.)