Punishment and democratic theory: Resources for a better penal politics

Albert Dzur, Ian Loader, Richard Sparks

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

This chapter introduces the central theme that animates the chapters in this volume: that one underexploited resource for a better penal politics lies in investigating the ideals and institutions of democracy, and thinking about how these ideals can be theorized and given practical effect in reshaping the criminal justice and penal arrangements of advanced capitalist democracies today. Penal scholarship has seen the emergence of a defensive, nostalgic orthodoxy, one that sees technocratic governance as the most plausible route out of penal excess. In contrast, this chapter makes the case for enriching the exchange between punishment and democratic theory. By paying closer attention to the unrealized promise of democratic values and commitments, we can sharpen the critique of mass incarceration, restrain the power and reach of the penal state, and focus greater attention on the question of how to reconstruct criminal justice institutions to make them agents of a deeper democracy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDemocratic Theory and Mass Incarceration
EditorsAlbert Dzur, Ian Loader, Richard Sparks
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780190629144
ISBN (Print)9780190243098
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • democracy
  • elitism
  • mass incarceration
  • penal populism
  • public participation
  • punishment


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