Friday, January 11, 2019

Beyond Punitive Capitalist and Liberal Society: Toward a Syllabus

While still working for the Institute of Social Research in Frankfurt, Germany, Erich Fromm penned two articles on the criminal justice system, “The State as Educator” (1930) and “On the Psychology of the Criminal” (see the volume edited by Kevin Anderson and Richard Quinney, Erich Fromm and Critical Criminology: Beyond the Punitive Society, 2000). In The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet (2013), Lawrence J. Freidman summarizes several of the principal arguments:

“On a … basic and psychological level … the state was referring to crime and deterrence in order to present itself on a subconscious level as a father image. The child knew that he was defenseless against the power of the father, particularly the capacity of the father to castrate the child. By drawing upon unconscious fear of paternal punishment, Fromm noted, the state sought to promote obedience to its dictates

The state also used the criminal justice system to enhance itself, Freud claimed, by treating the criminal as a scapegoat instead of confronting society’s deep social problems. In dwelling on crime and punishment, the state manipulated society into becoming less attentive to the social and economic inadequacies and oppressions in daily life. That is, a punitive criminal justice system was employed to divert the anger of the masses from the oppressive social conditions that required government remedies. In brief, the criminal rather than state policy became the scapegoat for social ills, economic inequality, and governmental corruption and callousness.
Fromm 2
Did the criminal justice at least deter crime? Fromm answered in the negative. Reliable evidence consistently demonstrated that imprisonment, harsh sanctions, and even capital punishment had no salutary effect on crime and thus did not protect the public. 

Fromm’s final point linked to the others—that the criminal justice system had a decidedly class bias. Whereas the propertied classes had opportunities to sublimate their aggressive propensities into socially acceptable channels, the disadvantaged lacked these channels and were consequently more likely to commit crimes. Therefore, the reform of social inequities through the redistribution of wealth constituted a more effective plan for combating crime than a harsh system of incarceration and punishment that offered little protection to the public. In essence, these papers reflected Fromm’s own rather eclectic fusion of psychoanalytic commentary and Marxian analysis to promote a view of criminal justice that was ahead of his time.”

  • Aertsen, Ivo and Brunilda Pali, eds. Critical Restorative Justice. Portland, OR: Hart Publishing, 2017.
  • Anderson, Kevin and Richard Quinney, eds. Erich Fromm and Critical Criminology: Beyond the Punitive Society. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
  • Beirne, Piers and Richard Quinney, eds. Marxism and Law. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1982.
  • Bissonette, Jamie. When the Prisoners Ran Walpole: A True Story in the Movement for Prison Abolition. Boston, MA: South End Press, 2008.
  • Braithwaite and Philip Pettit. Not Just Deserts: A Republican Theory of Criminal Justice. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1990.
  • Brottman, Mikita. The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men’s Prison. New York: Harper Collins, 2016.
  • Cohen, Stanley. Against Criminology. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1988.
  • Davis, Angela Y. Are Prisons Obsolete? New York: Seven Stories Press, 2003.
  • Gorringe, Timothy. God’s Just Vengeance: Crime, Violence and the Rhetoric of Salvation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
  • Greenberg, David F., ed. Crime and Capitalism: Readings in Marxist Criminology. Palo Alto, CA: Mayfield Publishing Co., 1981.                   
  • Harring, Sydney L. Policing a Class Society. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2nd ed., 2017.
  • Honderich, Ted. Punishment: The Supposed Justifications Revisited. London: Pluto Press, revised 4th ed., 2006.
  • Karpowitz, Daniel. College in Prison: Reading in an Age of Mass Incarceration. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2017.
  • Lagemann, Ellen Condliffe. Liberating Minds: The Case for College in Prison. New York: New Press, 2016.
  • Murphy, Jeffrie G. and Jean Hampton. Forgiveness and Mercy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
  • Nussbaum, Martha C. Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.
  • O’Mahony, David and Jonathan Doak. Reimagining Restorative Justice: Agency and Accountability in the Criminal Process. Portland, OR: Hart Publishing, 2017.
  • Sarat, Austin and Nasser Hussain, eds. Forgiveness, Mercy, and Clemency. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007.
  • Sweeney, Megan. Reading Is My Window: Books and the Art of Reading in Women’s Prisons. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.
  • Tigar, Michael E. Law and the Rise of Capitalism. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2nd ed., 2000.
  • Van Ness, Daniel W. and Karen Heetderks Strong. Restoring Justice: An Introduction to Restorative Justice. New York: Routledge, 5th ed., 2015.
  • Wang, Jackie. Carceral Capitalism. South Pasadena, CA: Semiotext(e), 2018.
  • Zimmerman, Michael J. The Immorality of Punishment. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 2011.
Crime and Capitalism

Basic Bibliographies:

Bibliographies with family resemblance to this topic:
Policing a class society


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