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State Denunciation of Crime

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In this paper I am concerned with a problem for communicative theories of punishment. On such theories, punishment is justified at least in part as the authoritative censure or condemnation of crime. But is this compatible with a broadly liberal political outlook? For while liberalism is generally thought to take only a very limited interest in its citizens’ attitudes (seeing moral opinion as a matter of legitimate debate), the idea of state denunciation of crime seems precisely to be focused on the attitudes expressed in action. In this paper I analyse the elements of the communicative theory of punishment, assessing the extent to which they can be considered anti-liberal. I argue that, understood in a certain way, the communicative theory, though in some sense communitarian, is compatible with at least one central and attractive non-perfectionist strand in liberalism.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy University of Sheffield Sheffield, UK, Email: c.bennett@shef.ac.uk

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