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Politics of Penal Excess and the Echo of Colonial Penality

NCJ Number
Punishment and Society: The International Journal of Penology Volume: 4 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2002 Pages: 403-423
Mark Brown
Date Published
October 2002
21 pages
This article addresses penal excess claiming that it is a central element of penal modernity.
Arguing that penal excess does not signal a departure away from modern penal doctrines, this article contends that severe forms of punishment are important in modern states. After arguing that most western nations are witnessing a marked increase in penal sanctions, the author contends that penal excess does not detract away from the formation of the modern state. Connecting modern European penal codes with historical European global expansion and colonialism, this article examines British colonial laws. Maintaining that British penal law, criminal procedures, administrative rules, and the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 in 19th century colonial India illustrate how penal excess was key to the constitution of the state in British India, the author suggests that penal severity is not only consistent with the principles of modern governance, but also that strong penal sanctions may be conducive to principles that are primary to the implementation of the modern state and rationality. The author concludes that the effectiveness of harsh penal sanctions has historical precedent and demonstrates how tough penal codes have been important in European and North American history. Notes, references


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