Book Review:Punishment: Theory and Practice. Mark Tunick [Book Review]

Ethics 104 (1):182- (1992)
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Unlike other treatments of legal punishment, Punishment: Theory and Practice takes both an external approach, asking why we punish at all, and an internal approach, considering issues faced by those 'inside' the practice: For what actions should we punish? Should we allow plea-bargaining? the insanity defense? How should sentencing be determined? The two approaches are connected: To decide whether to punish someone who is 'insane', or who cops a plea, we need to ask whether doing so is consistent with our theory of why we punish at all. In connecting theory and practice, I draw on a broad range of thought: radical criticisms of punishment (Nietzsche, Foucault, Marxists), sociological theories (Durkheim, Girard), various philosophical traditions (utilitarian, German Idealism, modern liberalism), and the 'law and economics' movement. Against radical critics who argue we shouldn't punish at all, but who then leave us without an alternative for dealing with crime, I defend the practice, offering a version of retribution (which I distinguish from revenge and non-consequential theories) that holds we punish not to deter, reform, or otherwise augment social utility, but to mete out just deserts, vindicate right, and express society's condemnation of actions it deems blameworthy. I argue that this theory best accounts for how we do punish, and then use this theory to provide immanent criticism of certain features of our actual practice that don't accord with the retributive principle.



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