Monday, February 12, 2007

Emmelman on Dubber, The Sense of Justice: Empathy in Law and Punishment

The Law and Politics Book Review has a new review by Debra S. Emmelman, Southern Connecticut State University, of Markus Dirk Dubber, THE SENSE OF JUSTICE: EMPATHY IN LAW AND PUNISHMENT (New York University Press, 2006). Emmelman begins:
What is the “sense of Justice”? What is it not? How has the concept, correctly or incorrectly, been invoked in American Law? What is its specific nature or form? And what role does the sense of justice play in American penal law? These are the questions that Markus Dirk Dubber addresses in his book, THE SENSE OF JUSTICE: EMPATHY IN LAW AND PUNISHMENT.
According to Dubber, the sense of justice is not vengeance. Nor is it benevolence. For that matter, the concepts of “procedural justice,” “distributive justice,” or even “just deserts” appear to have little or no place, at least not in this particular exposition. Instead, the sense of justice is defined as a sentiment, or perhaps better stated, a sensibility about, consciousness of, or empathy with our fellow human beings as human beings equal to ourselves. Moreover, and quite possibly most importantly, it is the capacity to assess whether one person has treated another as an equal as well. It is, in other words, a specific moral form of empathic role-taking....
Professor Dubber begins his inquiry by first describing the diverse ways in which the concept has been used and abused in American Law. He then takes a largely historical look at previous attempts to account for this idea in American legal discourse.

For the rest, click here.