Meeting Violence with Violence: The Connection between Retributive Justice and Interstate Conflict
40 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 26 Aug 2011
Date Written: 2011
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” This maxim encapsulates the main principles of retributive justice, the idea that wrongdoing deserves to be punished and that the punishment should be commensurate with the crime committed. In previous work, I have found that in the United States, individuals who strongly endorse the norm of retribution are more likely to support the use of violence by the state, both domestically and internationally. The current demonstrates that there is significant cross-national variation in support for retributive justice, and that this variation affects the likelihood of interstate conflict. Using the legal status of the death penalty as a proxy for state-level retributiveness, I find that democracies with the death penalty are substantially more likely to initiate militarized disputes than democracies without the death penalty. This research demonstrates that domestic norms do have an effect on the international relations of democracies, but that these norms can promote either peace or conflict depending on their content.
Keywords: war, democracy, democratic peace, retribution
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