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Robert Crosnoe, Chair CLA 3.306, Mailcode A1700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-6300

Spring 2010

SOC 308 • Punishment and Society

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
46253 MWF
11:00 AM-12:00 PM
BUR 212

Course Description

While much of deviance and crime theory is concerned with understanding why people are deviant or why they commit crimes, this course focuses on responses to deviance/crime, or punishment. Some of the major questions this course seeks to address are: Why do we punish? How do we think about punishment? How do we justify the use of punishment? What are the forces that shape punishment? What are the moral and practical considerations of specific punishment practices? This course will seek to answer these questions by considering four broad themes: sociological theories of punishment, orientations towards punishment (or punishment frameworks), debates surrounding the effectiveness and morality of specific punishment practices and the use of punishment in non-criminal contexts. The theoretical explanations for punishment that will be considered include Durkheim's discussion of punishment as a response to an offended "collective consciousness", Marxist explanations (e.g. Rushce & Kircheimer) that emphasize punishment as means of social control over the lower classes, and Foucault's discussion of the punishment as a an expression of power and knowledge that aims to discipline bodies. The course will also examine the frameworks that are used to think about punishment, for example, punishment as retribution (i.e., just deserts), punishment as deterrence, punishment as prevention, etc. Next, we will examine the effectiveness of, and the moral debates surrounding, specific punishment practices, including, the death penalty, castration for sex offenders and the use of prisons. Finally, we will expand our consideration of punishment beyond criminal contexts. Some topics for consideration include punishment within the family and punishment in schools.

Grading Policy

Essay 20%
Exams 70%
In class assignments and quizzes 10%


Course Reader available from the Co-Op


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