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The End of Punishment

Philosophical Considerations on an Institution

Rebecca Pates

Punishment is a critical aspect in evaluating the functioning of the state and the legitimacy of its authority. The main punishment in modern societies is imprisonment. What are prisons for? Whom are they meant to benefit? What are their effects? And, most importantly: can they be justified? Decades of empirical research have shown that doing nothing in response to crime has been shown to be just as effective (and considerably cheaper). If the ends are not achieved, the justifications are moot. This study considers the philosophical aftermath: Are we morally obliged to submit to institutions that don’t work? What happens if we don’t? Finally, this study considers the theoretical implications of the state getting out of the business of punishing by considering alternatives to state punishment in «First Nations» communities in Canada as an example of a practice after the end of punishment.
Contents: Vestigial Institutions and Barbarous Actions – Ends of Punishment / Justifying Acts, Justifying Institutions / Latent and Manifest Purposes of Institutions – Classical Justificatory Theories and their Failings – Contracting to Punish – The «Pestilential Breath of Fiction» – Dissent and the Permissibility of Obedience – Particularist Responses to Social Strife.