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Public Wrongs and Power Relations in Non-Democratic & Illiberal Polities

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Peer-reviewed

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Article

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Abstract

jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pOne of the influential contributions to criminalisation theories is Duff’s work on public wrongs, which offers a thin master principle of criminalisation, proposing that we have a reason to criminalise a type of conduct if it constitutes a public wrong; one that violates a polity’s civil order and forms part of that polity’s proper business. The nature of the civil order, the scope of its proper business, and the distinction between the public and private realms of wrongs are context-relative to each polity, structured by their legal, institutional, and informal values and ways of life. Such a context-relative view led to problematic criminalisation examples raised by Duff and his critics. This article engages more fully with the relativism of the civil order and public wrongs in non-democratic and illiberal contexts. It draws on examples such as Saudi Arabi and Iran, and Beetham’s work on the legitimation of power to argue that conceptualising the civil order as an undifferentiated whole that represents a polity’s chosen way of life overlooks the ways in which the civil order’s values and practices are shaped by relations of power and exclusion rules and processes. This, in turn, exposes the theory to the risk of mirroring and legitimising unequal relations of power and impeding efforts to change them. This is also due to the theory’s lack of proper normative guidance on the legitimacy of criminalisation. The potential commitment to – instead of a preference for – democracy and guarantees of equality and freedoms might help strengthen the theory normatively, but it is insufficient to guard against the raised problems.</jats:p>

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Keywords

5003 Philosophy, 50 Philosophy and Religious Studies, 5002 History and Philosophy Of Specific Fields, 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Journal Title

Criminal Law and Philosophy

Conference Name

Journal ISSN

1871-9791
1871-9805

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Publisher

Springer Science and Business Media LLC