Between Economics and Sociology: The New Path of Deterrence
Dan M. Kahan
Yale University - Law School; Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics
Michigan Law Review, Vol. 95, No. 5 (1997).
This short essay surveys recent works (including an article by Neal Katyal in the same issue of the Michigan Law Review) that attempt to enrich the standard conception of deterrence by incorporating social norms. The motivation for grouping these works together is as much political as conceptual: to draw attention to their potential to negotiate the space between economic and sociological approaches to crime control. The economic approach rests on an account of human motivations that is too thin to be believable, and generates policies that are too severe to be just. The sociological approach is much richer but also hopelessly impractical; it is clear that American society has neither the social-scientific know-how nor the political will to eradicate the social "root causes" of crime. The works surveyed in this essay, in contrast, focus on social phenomena that are important enough to be worth regulating but malleable enough to be regulated efficiently. (Among these are "social organization," "moral credibility," "social meaning," and "social influence.") The payoff is a host of morally acceptable and politically feasible law-enforcement policies -- from curfews, to gang-loitering laws, to order-maintenance policing, to reverse stings, to shaming penalties -- that deter as well or better than severe prison terms and that cost much less.
Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: July 2, 1997
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