Coming soon: Punishment and Purpose – From Moral Theory to Punishment in Action
List of tables and figures
Foreword – John Braithwaite
2. The theoretical debate
– 2.1 Introduction
– 2.2 The need for philosophies and theories of punishment
– 2.3 Categorisation of philosophical theories
– 2.4 Retributivism
– 2.4.1 Negative and positive retributivism
– 2.4.2 The intuitionist approach
– 2.4.3 Restoring a balance
– 2.5 Utilitarianism
– 2.5.1 Bentham and Beccaria
– 2.5.2 Individual or general prevention? Muller’s utilitarianism pur sang
– 2.6 Mixed theories
– 2.7 Restorative Justice
In Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (1972), after spending some time in prison, young delinquent Alex is treated with the revolutionary Ludovico’s technique. With this new technique a violent criminal can be effectively reformed within a fortnight. Ludovico’s technique is happily embraced and advocated by the government that hopes to win the coming elections by boasting of the way it has effectively dealt with crime. As a result of the treatment, “the intention to act violently is accompanied by strong feelings of physical distress. To counter these the subject has to witch to a diametrically opposed attitude” (p. 99). In short, Alex is being impelled towards the good as a mechanical result of his inclination towards evil. Although as a result of his treatment Alex ceases to be a creature capable of moral choice, government officials stress that their main concern is with cutting down crime and relieving the congested prison system and not with higher ethics. After the treatment is successfully completed, Alex is released back into society. When he returns home to his parents, he finds that his personal belongings have been sold by the police in order to compensate his victims. He also finds himself rejected by his grief-stricken parents who now have a lodger, Joe, staying in Alex’s room. Joe is like a new son to Alex’s parents. He makes clear to Alex that it is only right he should suffer further because he has made others suffer in the past. Now homeless and, as a result of his treatment, incapable of defending himself, Alex is abused as an act of revenge by one of his victims from the past whom he encounters in the public library. Alex’s newly found ‘freedom’ has become unbearable to him and he wants ‘to snuff it’.
The story of Alex in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ incorporates a number of important issues related to the morality, legitimacy and goals of punishment that are still of relevance to the contemporary practice of legal punishment. It involves issues of moral choice and free will, criminal politics, interests of victims, revenge, proportionality in punishment and the uneasy relation between reformation and retribution. To date, these issues continue to be subject to fundamental differences of opinion. Legal punishment is considered a means of dealing, in a suitable and just way, with those who infringe legal rules. However widely accredited such a view may be, it nevertheless begs the fundamental question of what should be considered as suitable and just punishment. The answer to this question is not immediately evident and yet, the practice of punishment needs a moral justification since punishment itself is morally problematic (Duff & Garland, 1994). Punishment involves a deliberate and avoidable infliction of suffering (Honderich, 1970). It involves actions, such as depriving a person of his or her freedom that, if not described and justified as legal punishment, would be considered to be wrong or evil (Cavadino & Dignan, 1997; Hart, 1963; Sullivan, 1996). Thus, while the institution of legal punishment is perceived by most as a self-evident part of society, it nevertheless needs a sound moral justification. From a moral point of view therefore, we would expect the practice of legal punishment to reflect a solid and commonly shared legitimising framework. Such a framework involves answers to questions relating to the justification and goals of punishment. Read more
The Guardian ~ Open Culture. Sometimes I’ll meet someone who mentions having written a book, and who then adds, “… well, an academic book, anyway,” as if that didn’t really count. True, academic books don’t tend to debut at the heights of the bestseller lists amid all the eating, praying, and loving, but sometimes lightning strikes; sometimes the subject of the author’s research happens to align with what the public believes they need to know. Other times, academic books succeed at a slower burn, and it takes readers generations to come around to the insights contained in them — a less favorable royalty situation for the long-dead writer, but at least they can take some satisfaction in the possibility.
The shortlist of these most important academic books of all time runs as follows (and you can read many of them free by following the links from our meta list of Free eBooks):
Stephen Hawking ~ A Brief History of Time
Immanuel Kant ~ Critique of Pure Reason
Germaine Greer ~ The Female Eunuch
Niccolò Machiavelli ~ The Prince
Adam Smith ~ The Wealth of Nations
Combatting Climate Change Requires A Transition To New Economic Values: An Interview With Graciela Chichilnisky
Climate change represents the greatest threat facing humankind. Yet, not only is very little being done to combat the climate change threat, but there are still vocal climate change deniers around us, some of whom are even running for the presidency of the United States. Moreover, there seems to be confusion about the most effective ways to combat climate change. The latest effort by global leaders to address the problem of climate change, as reflected in the Paris Agreement of late 2015, falls short of implementing the necessary steps to save the planet.
But this begs the question. What are the necessary steps that need to be taken to prevent a catastrophic climate change scenario? In this exclusive interview for Rozenberg Quarterly, world renowned economist and climate change authority Graciela Chichilnisky discusses the nature of the problem of climate change, highlights what is at stake, and argues cogently what should be done to save the planet.
Professor Chichilnisky, it is widely known that climate change can be caused by both natural variations and human activity. Is the climate change being observed today due to natural variations or are its causes to be found in human activities and greenhouse gas emissions?
Scientists all over the world are in agreement that the climate variations we observe today are due to a global change in climate, and that increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels since 1945, are responsible for climate change. This is not a gentle warming trend, it is the melting of the North and the South poles, and a confirmed rising level of the oceans worldwide that will engulf large areas of the planet, and include 43 island nations states.
In the United States, virtually all leading Republican figures, including Donald Trump, who has already wrapped up the Republican nomination, argue that climate change is based in pseudo-science. What’s going in here? Are Republicans so out of touch with reality, or are they simply interested in protecting vested interests in the fossil fuel economy?
The Republican party is conservative by nature and resists change, even the acknowledgment of the need for change. This is a natural human response. Denial is known to be the first psychological response to a traumatic event, and climate change is potentially catastrophic. Denial is a natural first response and can take the form of denouncing climate science as pseudo-science. However understandable the reaction may be, we cannot remain mired in the first response to a traumatic event, and need action. It is now possible to take action as there are technologies that can remove the carbon that is already in the atmosphere in an affordable way, and this is needed now to avert catastrophic climate change. But it requires moving from the stages of denial and anger to the stage of acceptance. Then we can take action and create global policy as needed.
However, there are some scientists and former astronauts who claim that NASA’s studies of climate change, for example, are based in highly complex models which have proven highly inadequate in the last. Any comments on this?
Indeed, climate models are recent scientific developments and they are complex. This is true. Nobody can predict the weather exactly for example. But the scientific evidence for the overall climate change trend is now overwhelming accepted by most scientific bodies, including the IPCC which is the UN scientific body consisting of thousands of scientists from all over the world, and nobody debates that. Read more
Hannah Arendt wrote The Origins of Totalitarianism in 1949, by which time the world had been confronted with evidence of the Nazi apparatus of terror and destruction. The revelations of the atrocities were met with a high degree of incredulous probing despite a considerable body of evidence and a vast caché of recorded images. The individual capacity for comprehension was overwhelmed, and the nature and extent of these programmes added to the surreal nature of the revelations. In the case of the dedicated death camps of the so-called Aktion Reinhard, comparatively sparse documentation and very low survival rates obscured their significance in the immediate post-war years. The remaining death camps, Majdanek and Auschwitz, were both captured virtually intact. They were thus widely reported, whereas public knowledge of Auschwitz was already widespread in Germany and the Allied countries during the war.[i] In the case of Auschwitz, the evidence was lodged in still largely intact and meticulous archives. Nonetheless it had the effect of throwing into relief the machinery of destruction rather than its anonymous victims, for the extermination system had not only eliminated human biological life but had also systematically expunged cumulative life histories and any trace of prior existence whatsoever, ending with the destruction of almost all traces of the dedicated extermination camps themselves, just prior to the Soviet invasion.
Ideology and terror: The experiment in total domination
In chapter two of Hannah Arendt’s Response to the Crisis of her Time it was argued that Arendt’s typology of government rests on the twin criteria of organisational form and a corresponding ‘principle of action’. In the post-Origins essay On the Nature of Totalitarianism, Arendt argues that Western political thought has customarily distinguished between ‘lawful’ and ‘lawless’, or ‘constitutional’ and ‘tyrannical’ forms of government (Arendt 1954a: 340). Throughout Occidental history, lawless forms of government, such as tyranny, have been regarded as perverted by definition. Hence, if
… the essence of government is defined as lawfulness, and if it is understood that laws are the stabilizing forces in the public affairs of men (as indeed it always has been since Plato invoked Zeus, the god of the boundaries, in his Laws), then the problem of movement of the body politic and the actions of its citizens arises. (Arendt 1979: 466-7)
‘Lawfulness’ as a corollary of constitutional forms of government is a negative criterion inasmuch as it prescribes the limits to but cannot explain the motive force of human actions: ‘the greatness, but also the perplexity of laws in free societies is that they only tell what one should not, but never what one should do’ (ibid.: 467). Arendt, accordingly, lays great store by Montesquieu’s discovery of the ‘principle of action’ ruling the actions of both government and governed: ‘virtue’ in a republic, ‘honour’ in monarchy, and ‘fear’ in tyrannical forms of government (Arendt 1954a: 330; Arendt 1979: 467-8).