Very Bad Wizards

Episode 256: The Right to Punish?

March 14th, 2023

Here’s an episode with something for both of us – a healthy serving of Kantian rationalism for David with a dollop of Marxist criminology for Tamler. We discuss and then argue about Jeffrie Murphy’s 1971 paper “Marxism and Retribution.” For Murphy, utilitarianism is non-starter as a theory of punishment because it can’t justify the right of the state to inflict suffering on criminals. Retributivism respects the autonomy of individuals so it can justify punishment in principle – but not in practice, at least not in a capitalist system. So it ends up offering a transcendental sanction of the status quo. We debate the merits of Murphy’s attack on Rawls and social contract theory under capitalism, along with the Marxist analysis of the roots of criminal behavior.

Plus – the headline says it all: Blame The Brain, Not Bolsonaro, For Brazil’s Riots.

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