Sociology Index


Retribution derives from the notions of retribute or to receive in recompense and the Christian sense of deserved, adequate or fit. Retribution is now used exclusively to refer to punishment deserved because of an offence and which fits the severity of the offence. Retribution must be distinguished from revenge and retaliation. Punishment or retribution here, is justified because it makes the offender give up money, personal freedom or comfort that is equivalent to the harm or loss done to others. While scholarship about retribution and revenge has tended to focus on criminal justice, empirical evidence indicates that retribution is important in other matters related to law. Medical malpractice, discrimination, and a panoply of civil lawsuits can be primarily fueled by a desire for retribution. - Neil Vidmar.

Retribution vs Revenge and Reparation

The basic idea of retribution is that the state "returns" to the offender a negative experience proportional to his offense. The "return" in the case of reparation is something of positive value, and in the case of retribution something of negative value. The agent of retribution is the state while the agent of reparation is the party who did the injury. "Revenge" is "an act or instance of retaliating in order to get even" and "an opportunity for getting satisfaction by seeing the "enemy" suffer. It is the individual person who seeks revenge. Like reparation and retribution, revenge involves a sort of return. Like retribution, revenge involves the imposition of something unpleasant upon a party perceived as having overstepped. Unlike retribution, revenge does not necessarily follow publicly established procedures. Revenge may be spontaneous and can occur outside the formal contexts of a legal system. Unlike reparation, the performer of revenge is the party that perceives itself as injured.

Retribution and Revenge - NEIL VIDMAR.
HANDBOOK OF JUSTICE RESEARCH IN LAW, Joseph Sanders and V. Lee Hamilton, eds. 
Abstract: Retribution and revenge, two highly related concepts, are arguably the oldest, most basic and most pervasive justice reactions associated with human social life. Retributive motives can appear at the core of intractable business disputes and other commercial disagreements. Professor Vidmar develops a conceptual framework to study retribution as a psychological and social phenomenon. His discussion explores the sociological and psychological functions that punishment serves. Article discuss the cognitive dynamics of retribution and its emotional/behavioral aspects as well. Article raises important questions about retribution. How does excessive punishment of the offender or remorse affect retributive reactions?

Just Say No to Retribution - EDWARD L. RUBIN, Vanderbilt University - School of Law.
Abstract: Retribution has become increasingly popular, among both legislators and scholars, as a rationale for punishment. The proposed revision of the Model Criminal Code adopts this newly fashionable standard and abandons its previous commitment to rehabilitation.
Retribution does have a core meaning, however; it inevitably involves the idea of morally condemning the offender. Retributive discourse is likely to exacerbate one of the most serious problems in American criminal justice, which is the over-use of imprisonment, particularly for non-violent offenders. If retribution means anything, it is that we have some fixed idea about the amount of punishment a particular criminal deserves or should be paid back with, not that punishments should be determined by their relationship to other punishments. In fact, proportionality is an independent principle. While it is inconsistent with the concept of retribution, it serves as a complementary principle to rehabilitation.

Retribution, Crime Reduction and the Justification of Punishment 
David Wood, Law Faculty, University of Melbourne.
The ‘dualist project’ in the philosophy of punishment is to show how retributivist and reductivist (utilitarian) considerations can be combined to provide an adequate justification of punishment. Three types of dualist theories can be distinguished, ‘split-level’, ‘integrated’ and ‘mere conjunction’. Split-level theories must be rejected, as they relegate retributivist considerations to a lesser role. An attempted integrated theory is put forward, appealing to the reductivist means of deterrence. It cannot explain how the two types of considerations, retributivist and reductivist, are to be genuinely integrated as opposed to merely conjoined. An attempt to find integration at the deeper level of political philosophy is then examined, in the form of Lacey's communitarian theory of punishment.

Chris Yeomans, "Hegel on Retribution and Punishment"
Proceedings of the Ohio Philosophical Association - No. 3 (2006): 
Abstract: Hegel's theory of punishment is an intriguing part of his political philosophy, but it is difficult to interpret. Some commentators see Hegel as making a profound point about the conceptual connection between crime, punishment and rights, as others accuse him of sophistry. I think that there is an interesting truth in Hegel's discussion, and that his argument is more sophisticated than other interpreters have recognized. Retribution, of which punishment is one species, is justified because it is required by the teleological character of human agency as reflected in our goal-directed control of property, and that control is necessary for us to be free persons.