Punishment, Communication, and Community


The question "What can justify criminal punishment ?" becomes especially insistent at times, like our own, of penal crisis, when serious doubts are raised not only about the justice or efficacy of particular modes of punishment, but about the very legitimacy of the whole penal system. Recent theorizing about punishment offers a variety of answers to that question-answers that try to make plausible sense of the idea that punishment is justified as being deserved for past crimes; answers that try to identify some beneficial consequences in terms of which punishment might be justified; as well as abolitionist answers telling us that we should seek to abolish, rather than to justify, criminal punishment.This book begins with a critical survey of recent trends in penal theory, but goes on to develop an original account (based on Duff's earlier Trials and Punishments) of criminal punishment as a mode of moral communication, aimed at inducing repentance, reform, and reconciliation through reparation-an account that undercuts the traditional controversies between consequentialist and retributivist penal theories, and that shows how abolitionist concerns can properly be met by a system of communicative punishments. In developing this account, Duff articulates the "liberal communitarian" conception of political society (and of the role of the criminal law) on which it depends; he discusses the meaning and role of different modes of punishment, showing how they can constitute appropriate modes of moral communication between political community and its citizens; and he identifies the essential preconditions for the justice of punishment as thus conceived-preconditions whose non-satisfaction makes our own system of criminal punishment morally problematic.Punishment, Communication, and Community offers no easy answers, but provides a rich and ambitious ideal of what criminal punishment could be-an ideal of what criminal punishment cold be-and ideal that challenges existing penal theories as well as our existing penal theories as well as our existing penal practices.
  • Oxford University Press; May 2003
  • ISBN 9780198026433
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure EPUB format
  • Title: Punishment, Communication, and Community
  • Author: R. A. Duff
  • Imprint: Oxford University Press

In The Press

"R.A. Duff's "Punishment, Communication and Community" is a closely reasoned case for a distinctive normative justification of punishment based on mediation and probation."--The Law and Politics Book Review, August 2001
"Duff rejects the ultimate exclusionary penalty (capital punishment) for even the most dangerous of criminals and crimes; a reading of his reasons for doing so is a skillful journey through the relevant current literature."--Choice, October 2001
"Punishment, Communication, and Community is a masterful, comprehensive analysis of the justification of punishment in general and a landmark contribution to the communicative theory of state punishment that combines theoretical rigor, practical recommendations and humane common sense. Few will entirely agree with [the book], but all will be challenged. Duff's innovative work is required reading for criminal law theorists and policy makers."--Stephen J. Morse, University of Pennsylvania Law School
"In this masterly work, Professor Duff offers a penetrating assessment of recent work on penal philosophy and then develops his own communicative theory of punishment, which turns on ideas of community, penance and reconciliation. His account emphasizes the value of proportionate punishments designed to persuade offenders to face up to the implications of their crimes as public wrongs. Elegant in its philosophical argument and practical in its discussion of contemporary sentencing, this book sets the highest standards for work in this vital area of public policy at the start of a new millennium."--Andrew J. Ashworth, University of Oxford
"Antony Duff has in recent years established himself as one of our foremost philosophers of punishment, arguing for a communicative view of justified punishment that sees it as a form of secular penance . In this book, he offers his fullest account of this theory to date. His approach, if generally adopted, would require a transformation of many of our existing practices of state punishment. This is a deep and challenging volume: no-one who is seriously concerned with the nature of and justification for state punishment can afford to neglect its arguments."--Anthony Bottoms, Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University

About The Author

R.A. Duff was educated at the University of Oxford and has taught philosophy at the University of Sterling since 1970. He is the author of Trials and Punishments (1986), Intention, Agency, and Criminal Liability (1990), and Criminal Attempts (OUP 1996), contributing editor of Philosophy and the Criminal Law: Principle and Critique (1998), and co-editor, with David Garland, of A Reader on Punishment.