Justice Out of Balance
Critical Inquiry, 45 (2019):280-306.
Posted: 26 Jan 2019
Date Written: December 29, 2018
The balance is the oldest element in the iconography of justice, both secular and divine. First encountered in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, it resurfaces in Persian religious texts, in the Old and New Testament, and in the Koran The balance adorns court houses throughout the world, emblematizing justice with its purported ability to weigh accurately the opposing arguments, evidence, and interests pitting plaintiffs against defendants. It also embodies the paradigmatic image of criminal law at the center of this essay: the balancing of crime and punishment. There is a gap, however, between the balance’s iconographic success and the quality of its performance as an instrument of justice. This essay is about that gap.
Keywords: justice, scales, balance, lex talionis, crimes, punishments, retaliation, iconography
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