Retributive Justice

  • Robert Hogan
  • Nicholas P. Emler
Part of the Critical Issues in Social Justice book series (CISJ)


The reader might pause and reflect for a moment on the foregoing sentence. It is the only surviving fragment from the first known work of our civilization, Anaximander’s cosmology. The sentence hints at the role of retribution as an organizing force in nature and therefore in human affairs. For the Greeks, retribution was the iron law of the universe; it was equally the silent assumption on which Greek morality and Greek science was based. It is curious that a notion so fundamental at the beginning of a civilization is so infrequently remarked on in its later history. Piaget (1932/1965) captured the modern attitude when he observed that young children think of justice in terms of retribution. Older, more mature, and therefore more cognitively advanced children think of justice in terms of the equal distribution of rewards. The moral is clear: young children and persons with similarly limited intellectual perspectives endorse retributive justice. But as they grow, mature, and progress, they transcend their earlier limitations and take on a more enlightened viewpoint. The purpose of this paper is to suggest that despite this modern attitude, retribution remains a critical perspective from which to understand how the concept of justice functions at the level of the individual.


Distributive Justice Moral Development Equity Theory Human Affair Retributive Justice 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams, J. S., & Freedman, S. Equity theory revisited: Comments and annotated bibliography. In L. Berkowitz &. E. Walster (Eds.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 9. New York: Academic Press, 1976.Google Scholar
  2. Bailey, F. G. Gifts and poison: The politics of reputation. Oxford: Blackwell, 1971.Google Scholar
  3. Berkowitz, L., & Walster, E. (Eds.) Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 9. New York: Academic Press, 1976.Google Scholar
  4. Berne, E. Games people play. New York: Grove, 1964.Google Scholar
  5. Box, S. Deviance, reality and society. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972.Google Scholar
  6. Campbell, D. T. On the conflicts between biological and social evolution and between psychology and moral tradition. American Psychologist, 1976, 30, 1103–1126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Colson, E. Tradition and contract. Chicago: Aldine, 1974.Google Scholar
  8. Damon, W. Early conceptions of positive justice as related to the development of logical operations. Child Development, 1975, 46, 301–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. DuBois, C. The peoples of Alor. New York: Harper & Row, 1961.Google Scholar
  10. Freud, S. Totem and taboo. New York: Norton, 1950.Google Scholar
  11. Fürer-Haimendorf, C. von Morals and merit: A study of values and social controls in South Asian societies. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1967.Google Scholar
  12. Goffman, E. Relations in public. New York: Basic Books, 1971.Google Scholar
  13. Goffman, E. On cooling the mark. Psychiatry, 1952, 15, 451–463.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Hart, H. L. A. The concept of law. New York: Oxford University Press, 1961.Google Scholar
  15. Heider, F. The psychology of interpersonal relations. New York: Wiley, 1958.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hogan, R., & Dickstein, E. Moral judgments and perceptions of injustice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1972, 23, 409–413.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hogan, R., & Emier, N. P. The biases in contemporary social psychology. Social Research, 1978, 45, 478–534.Google Scholar
  18. Hogan, R., Johnson, J., & Emler, N. P. A socioanalytic theory of moral development. In W. Damon (Ed.), Moral development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1978.Google Scholar
  19. Hollander, E. P. Conformity, status and ideosyncrasy credit. Psychological Review, 1958, 65, 117–127.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Homans, G. C. Commentary. In L. Berkowitz & E. Walster (Eds.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 9. New York: Academic Press, 1976.Google Scholar
  21. Hook, J. G., & Cook, T. D. Equity theory and the cognitive ability of children. Psychological Bulletin, 1979, 86, 429–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kelsen, H. J. Society and nature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1943.Google Scholar
  23. Kelsen, H. J. What is justice? Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957.Google Scholar
  24. Kohlberg, L. Stage and sequence: The cognitive developmental approach to socialization. In D. Goslin (Ed.), Handbook of socialization theory and research. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1969.Google Scholar
  25. Kohlberg, L. From is to ought: How to commit the naturalistic fallacy and get away with it in the study of moral development. In T. Mischel (Ed.), Cognitive development and epistemology. New York: Academic Press, 1971.Google Scholar
  26. Kohlberg, L. Moral stages and moralization: The cognitive developmental approach. In T. Lickona (Ed.), Moral development and behavior: Theory, research and social issues. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976.Google Scholar
  27. Lerner, M. J. The justice motive in social behavior: Introduction. Journal of Social Issues, 1975, 31(3), 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lerner, M. J. The justice motive: Some hypotheses as to its origins and forms. Journal of Personality, 1977, 45, 1–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lerner, M. J., Miller, D. T., & Holmes, J. G. Deserving and the emergence of forms of justice. In L. Berkowitz & E. Walster (eds.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 9. New York: Academic Press, 1976.Google Scholar
  30. Lévi-Strauss, C. The elementary structure of kinship. Boston: Beacon Press, 1968.Google Scholar
  31. Loughran, R. A pattern of development in moral judgements made by adolescents derived from Piagefs schema of its development in childhood. In T. Lickona (Ed.), Moral development and behavior. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, 1976.Google Scholar
  32. Matson, W. What Rawls calls justice. The Occasional Review, 1978, 8/9(Autumn), 45–55.Google Scholar
  33. Parsons, T. The social system. Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1951.Google Scholar
  34. Piaget, J. The moral judgment of the child. New York: Free Press, 1965. (Originally published 1932.).Google Scholar
  35. Rawls, J. A theory of justice. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971.Google Scholar
  36. Tajfel, H., Billig, M., Bundy, R. P., & Flament, C. Social categorization and intergroup behaviour. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1971, 1, 149–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Turner, J. C. Social comparison and social identity: Some prospects for intergroup behaviour. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1975, 5, 5–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ugurel-Semin, R. Moral behavior and moral judgment of children. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1952, 47, 463–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Vidmar, N., & Miller, D. T. Social psychological processes underlying attitudes toward legal punishment. Law & Society Review, 1980, 14, 565–602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Walster, E., Berscheid, E., & Walster, G. W. New directions in equity research. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1973, 25, 151–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Hogan
    • 1
  • Nicholas P. Emler
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of DundeeDundeeScotland

Personalised recommendations