The Rewards of Punishment: A Relational Theory of Norm Enforcement

The Rewards of Punishment: A Relational Theory of Norm Enforcement

The Rewards of Punishment: A Relational Theory of Norm Enforcement

The Rewards of Punishment: A Relational Theory of Norm Enforcement

Synopsis

The Rewards of Punishment describes a new social theory of norms to provide a compelling explanation why people punish. Identifying mechanisms that link interdependence with norm enforcement, it reveals how social relationships lead individuals to enforce norms, even when doing so makes little sense.

This groundbreaking book tells the whole story, from ideas, to experiments, to real-world applications. In addition to addressing longstanding theoretical puzzles- such as why harmful behavior is not always punished, why individuals enforce norms in ways that actually hurt the group, why people enforce norms that benefit others rather than themselves, why groups punish behavior that has only trivial effects, and why atypical behaviors are sometimes punished and sometimes not- it explores the implications of the theory for substantive issues, including norms regulating sex, crime, and international human rights.

Excerpt

As a student in graduate school, I was interested in the relation between law and the informal pressures exerted within communities. I soon realized that to understand the connection between the two—between rules enforced by the state and those maintained through interpersonal relationships—Ineeded to know something about norms. Ineeded to understand how they emerged and why they were enforced. I turned to the sociological literature but found few answers. the research across disciplines was equally messy. It contained many diferent ideas about what norms are, why they matter, and what we need to know about them.

I began to try to understand norms for myself. I focused on enforcement. This was partly because of my interest in the relation between law and norms and how investment in one might affect the other. It was partly because enforcement appeared to be the most tractable element of norms to get a handle on. and it was partly because I saw enforcement as crucial, both theoretically and practically. One might begin to study norms by trying to understand the emergence of particuar rules. I chose not to start there, reasoning that what ever the rules were, if they were never enforced, they might not matter much.

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