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Law, Ideology and Punishment

  • Alan W. Norrie
Chapter
Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS, volume 12)

Abstract

Many years ago, Maine wrote that ‘All theories on the subject of Punishment have more or less broken down; and we are at sea as to first principles.’1 What causes a theory to break down? Why should a society be all at sea as to the basic principles of a central and morally crucial institution? How did this situation come about? Is it symptomatic at the level of ideas of some deeper ailment in the social body? The impetus to these questions came out of the development in philosophical thinking about punishment in the late 1970s and early 1980s when it had become clear that the existing theoretical and practical consensus around punishment was no longer sustainable. In penological thinking, the belief in rehabilitation and the benign potential in punishment had given way to cynicism and disillusion, while, paralleling this in philosophical discussion, there was an increasing rejection of both the philosophy of treatment and what came to be seen as the empty nostrums of utilitarian theory. When utilitarianism was not being amoral in vindicating individual punishment for the greater good, it was being positively immoral in sacrificing individual justice to social well-being. The debate about punishing the innocent had rumbled on for decades without setting anvwhere.2

Keywords

Legal Form Criminal Punishment Liberal Ideal Liberal Philosophy Legal Thought 
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.

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References

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan W. Norrie
    • 1
  1. 1.School of LawUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK

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