The Pull of Prediction: Distorting Our Conceptions of Just Punishment

in Against Prediction

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2006 | ISBN: 9780226316130
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226315997 | DOI:
The Pull of Prediction: Distorting Our Conceptions of Just Punishment

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This chapter explores the relationship between technical knowledge and our conceptions of just punishment. The structural transformation of our conception of just punishment at the end of the twentieth century is a case study in justice conforming itself to our developing technical knowledge. It is a case of philosophical and legal notions of justice following technical progress. And what is remarkable is that the impulse, the original catalyst, the stimulant in all this was exogenous to the legal system. It came from the field of sociology and from the positivist desire to place human behavior on a more scientific level—from the desire to control human behavior, just as we control nature. The rise of the actuarial itself was born of the desire to know the criminal scientifically, and this scientific drive produced the technical knowledge that colonized our jurisprudential conception of just punishment.

Keywords: technical knowledge; punishment; justice; sociology; human behavior; criminal

Chapter.  7746 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law

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