Law and Critique

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 131–135 | Cite as

Introduction: Violence and the Limits of Law

  • Amy Swiffen
  • Joshua Nichols

What is the meaning of criminal punishment in the context of law today? What is the limit that separates it from illegitimate violence? We could note the traditional distinction between punishment and vengeance: punishment being the measured use of sanctioned violence and vengeance being the private use of violence that has no measure. This division is expressed by the prohibition on ‘cruel and unusual punishment’, originally found in the English Bill of Rights (1689); it and versions stemming from it can now be found in a wide number of constitutions and declarations around the world, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United States Constitution, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Despite the permutations, however, what is at stake in the phrase is clear: legal violence is subject to limitation. Yet, there has proven to be difficulty in determining the limit. A number of approaches have developed in different legal orders that attempt to add some...


Death Penalty Criminal Punishment Legal Violence Canadian Charter Israeli Occupation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyConcordia UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of LawUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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