Does Torture Work? A Sociolegal Assessment of the Practice in Historical and Global Perspective
Posted: 4 Jun 2010
Date Written: December 2009
Torture is absolutely prohibited and constitutes one of the core crimes under international law. There is a substantial body of sociolegal literature that addresses torture's illegality. But this article tackles the question does torture work. The analysis locates the practice of torture in historical and global perspective, accommodating but not constrained by post-9/11 scholarship on American torture. The titular question is treated more critically and comprehensively than a narrowly construed focus on the value and veracity of utterances produced as a result of pain and suffering. Drawing on scholarship from a variety of fields, the article addresses how torture works (i.e., why it has been used and its effects) in order to highlight the role of torture in the mutually constitutive histories of law-state-society relations. The final section uses the American case to offer conclusions about the efficacy and effects of torture.
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