What's Wrong with the Sociology of Punishment

34 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2002

See all articles by John Braithwaite

John Braithwaite

School of Regulation & Global Governance (RegNet)


The sociology of punishment is seen through the work of its most prominent exponent, David Garland, as contributing useful insights, but less than it might because of its focus on societal choices of whether and how to punish instead of on choices of whether to regulate by punishment or by a range of other important strategies. While virtue is found in Garland's genealogical method, the problem is that branches of the genealogy are sawn off - the branches where the chosen instruments of regulation decentre punishment. This blinds us to the hybridity of predominantly punitive regulation of crime in the streets that is reshaped by more risk-preventive and restorative technologies of regulation for crime in the suites, and vice versa. Such hybridity is illustrated by contrasting the regulation of pharmaceuticals with that of "narcotics" and by juxtaposing the approaches to a variety of business regulatory challenges. A four-act drama of Rudoph Guiliani's career as a law enforcer - Wall Street prosecutor (I), "zero-tolerance" mayor (II), Mafia enforcement in New York (III), and Rudi the Rock of America's stand against terrorism (IV) - is used to illustrate the significance of the hybridity we could be more open to seeing. The weakness of a genealogical approach to punishment can be covered by the strengths of a genealogy of regulation that is methodologically committed to synoptically surveying all the important techniques of regulation deployed to confront an alleged social evil.

Keywords: Punishment, Foucault, Garland, regulation, police

Suggested Citation

Braithwaite, John, What's Wrong with the Sociology of Punishment. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=319602 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.319602

John Braithwaite (Contact Author)

School of Regulation & Global Governance (RegNet) ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200

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