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Punishment and society

Offer semester
2nd semester

Lecture time
Friday 18:30 – 21:20

Lecture venue

Course description

Punishment, as one of the major social institutions in our society, has always been a central object of social theory and in many ways a mirror of society and its norms. The course aims to explain punishment and society in a multi-dimensional context, entrenched in disciplines including criminology, penology, sociology, psychology, ethics ….. Punishment, in other words, is far more than a technical problem linked to certain institutions of crime control and prevention. To answer the questions on why and how should we punish wrongdoers in our society, we will look at the different functions of punishment, like retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, and restoration.

We will trace those functions historically and culturally, finding vast cultural and social differences in the way in which punishment is practiced. For instance, there is a vast difference in how different jurisdictions think about and practice punishment. The course will start by looking at the popular opinions about punishment, reminding us that the issue of punishment is both a normative and a scientific issue.

Course learning outcomes

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  1. Understand the differences between common sense approaches and scientific evidence based approaches to the effects of punishment;
  2. Understand basic philosophical arguments about punishment;
  3. Learn how to see punishment in a comparative and historical context;
  4. Identify basic issues of rehabilitative and retributive approaches to punishment;
  5. Discuss basic issues concerning the death penalty.


n individual 3,000 words academic essay plus a full bibliography to cover the specific issues on punishment100%

Required reading

Miethe, T. and Lu, H. (2005) Punishment. A Comparative Historical Perspective, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Recommended reading

Braithwaite, J. (2002) Restorative Justice and Responsive Regulation, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Brooks, T. (2012) Punishment, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Duff, R.A. and Garland, D. “Introduction: Thinking about punishment”, in Duff, A. & Garland, D. (Eds.) (1994) A Reader on Punishment, Oxford Readings in Socio-Legal Studies, Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp. 1-28.

Foucault, M, (1977) Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, London/New York: Allen Lane/Vintage.

Garland, D. (1990) Punishment and Modern Society, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Hood, R. and Hoyle, C. (2015) The Death Penalty. A World Wide Perspective (5th Edition), Oxford, Oxford University Press, Chapter 9, The Question of Deterrence, pp. 208-232.

Melossi, D. (1998) The Sociology of punishment: socio-structural perspectives, Aldershot, Hants: Dartmouth.

Peters, R. (2005) Crimes and Punishment in Islamic Law, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, Chapter 5, Islamic criminal law today, pp. 142-185.

Pratt, J. (2005) Punishment and Civilization, London, Sage.

Pratt, J., Eriksson, A. (2013) Contrasts in Punishment – An explanation of Anglophone excess and Nordic exceptionalism, Oxon: Routledge. Ch. 6 Punishment in the age of anxiety, pp. 165-209.

Simon, J., Sparks, R. (2013) The Sage Handbook of Punishment and Society. London: Sage. (electronic resources)

Course co-ordinator and teachers

Office opening hours adjustment