Harsh Justice

Harsh Justice : Criminal Punishment and the Widening Divide between America and Europe

3.45 (20 ratings by Goodreads)
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Criminal punishment in America is harsh and degrading-more so than anywhere else in the liberal west. Executions and long prison terms are commonplace in America. Countries like France and Germany, by contrast, are systematically mild. European offenders are rarely sent to prison, and when they are, they serve far shorter terms than their American counterparts. Why is America so comparatively harsh? In this novel work of comparative legal history, James Whitman argues that the answer lies in America's triumphant embrace of a non-hierarchical social system and distrust of state power which have contributed to a law of punishment that is more willing to degrade offenders.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 336 pages
  • 152.4 x 231.1 x 25.4mm | 612.36g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 4 halftones, 10 plates
  • 019518260X
  • 9780195182606
  • 573,386

Review quote

"In this book James Whitman asks and answers questions in realms where others fear to tread. He confronts the brutal fact that we punish more harshly in the United States than do Europeans and forces us to think about the questions of social structure that lie behind this practice. He develops a thesis about the current impact of Nazi jurisprudence that is sure to trigger arguments from more conventional thinkers. This is a profound book, impeccably researched and documented, one that will change the way we think about criminal punishment and increase our appreciation of comparative legal studies."-George Fletcher, Columbia Law School "Harsh Justice is original, imaginative, and erudite. I read it with great pleasure. The mastery of sources in many languages is awe-inspiring and Whitman's argument resounds with daring suggestions and bold insights. A genuinely learned book, nothing short of brilliant."-Lawrence Friedman, Stanford University "Its combination of elegant writing, deep erudition and bold theorizing make the book a terrific read. Indeed, it ought to be required reading for anyone interested in how a society comes to punish the way it does-and how it should."-American Prospect "Whitman's whirlwind tour of the punishment practices of three countries over the last two centuries is well worth the price of admission. He has a deep pool of knowledge and an eye for the telling detail-a picture, a turn of phrase, or a small historical event-that helps to advance his thesis."-Boston Reviewshow more

About James Q. Whitman

James Q. Whitman is Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law at Yale University. He has taught at Stanford and Harvard Law Schools and was trained as a historian at the University of Chicago before taking his law degree at Yale.show more

Table of contents

Introduction ; 1. Degradation, Harshness, and Mercy ; 2. Contemporary American Harshness: Rejecting Respect for Persons ; 3. Continental Dignity and Mildness ; 4. The Continental Abolition of Degradation ; 5. Low Status in the Anglo-American World ; Conclusion: Two Revolutions of Status ; Notes ; Bibliography ; Indexshow more

Rating details

20 ratings
3.45 out of 5 stars
5 10% (2)
4 30% (6)
3 55% (11)
2 5% (1)
1 0% (0)
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