Durkheim and modern punishment

Emile Durkheim argued that because the pre-industrial society was simpler and small, members of society were brought together by a strong bond of shared values, morals and beliefs. An act of crime therefore offended or affected many members of the community who were largely united into one single moral community (Ulmer, Bader  Gault, 2008). Criminals aroused the emotions or passions of the members of the community and not surprisingly, the punishments meted out severe and sometimes irrational. Such outrageous forms of punishments as maiming, killing and beating awaited the criminals, their families and friends.

Durkheim argued that as society modernized, punishment would gradually change from a group phenomenon driven by passion and aimed at avenging the crime, to a more systematic and logical process aimed at protecting society from criminals and helping the same to recover from the activities of criminal. According to Jones (1981), the modern society would be witness a developmental trend from repressive to restitutive law. While society has modernized by many standards and punishment of criminals attracts less passion than it did centuries ago, emotions still play a role in punishment of criminals in the modern world. For instance, terrorism and kidnapping are emotive issues and such cases attract much public interest. Passions are evident in the severity of punishments meted out on convicts of such crimes.


Post a Comment