The Culture of Vengeance and the Fate of American Justice

by Terry K. Aladjem

America is driven by vengeance in Terry Aladjem's provocative account – a reactive, public anger that is a threat to democratic justice itself. From the return of the death penalty to the wars on terror and in Iraq, Americans demand retribution and moral certainty; they assert the 'rights of victims' and make pronouncements against 'evil'. Yet for Aladjem this dangerously authoritarian turn has its origins in the tradition of liberal justice itself – in theories of punishment that justify inflicting pain and in the punitive practices that result. Exploring vengeance as the defining problem of our time, Aladjem returns to the theories of Locke, Hegel and Mill. He engages the ancient Greeks, Nietzsche, Paine and Foucault to challenge liberal assumptions about punishment. He interrogates American law, capital punishment and images of justice in the media. He envisions a democratic justice that is better able to contain its vengeance.

  • Cambridge University Press; January 2008
  • ISBN: 9780511373275
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: The Culture of Vengeance and the Fate of American Justice
  • Author: Terry K. Aladjem
  • Imprint: Cambridge University Press

In The Press

"One part cultural analysis, one part exploration of liberal political thought, The Culture of Vengeance gives vengeance a sympathetic and nuanced treatment. This makes Aladjem’s critique and rejection of it all the more powerful. From start to finish this is a masterful book, rich in insightful analysis, and filled with originality."
-Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science, Amherst College