Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
Punishment is a basic fact of human life. We impose punishment in formal and informal settings for a variety of purposes of social control, social change, and order maintenance. Previous studies of punishment also indicate that its nature and prevalence vary over time and place.
Using a comparative historical approach, the goal in this book is to illustrate the similarities and differences in punishment responses over time and place. We review current punishment practices across world regions and use case studies of the United States, China, and Saudi Arabia for detailed investigation of the comparative and historical contexts of punishment. Through this comparative historical perspective, the reader should gain an appreciation of the universal and context-specific nature of punishment practices.
There is an enormous academic and popular literature on punishment. Sociologists and other social scientists have long been interested in the topic of punishment, social control, and the structure of society. Various human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also provide current reports and commentary about punishment practices throughout most countries of the world. By providing detailed references to this previous research and a list of suggested readings in each chapter, we hope this book will serve as a research guide and inspire others to further examine the nature and effectiveness of punishment responses to crime and deviance across a wide range of social, political, and economic contexts.
Our views about punishment expressed in this book are a reflection of our personal experiences and academic training.