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Critical Realism by Alan Norrie, Tony Lawson, Andrew Collier, Roy Bhaskar, Margaret Archer

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27

THE LIMITS OF JUSTICE

Finding fault in the criminal law

Alan Norrie

Introduction: challenging the ‘penal equation’

Crime is a serious social problem to which society does not have a serious answer. Loud voices say that if our stock responses fail, we need more of the same. It should be easier to detect and convict criminals, punishments should be harsher. The resulting calls for ‘law and order,’ with emphasis on the latter, endorse what we may call the ‘penal equation.’ This is the simple formula, ‘crime plus responsibility equals punishment,’ that has informed our social control practices for two hundred years. The rationale for this equation is that crime requires punishment as retribution and deterrence, and criminal justice qualifies ...

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