Abstract: Punitive Justice and the Social Consciousness 

Ellsworth Faris

In the tribes of the Equatorial Congo there are large numbers of the population who are not subject to any form of punishment. This fact has a bearing on the theories of the origin and future of punishment.

The reaction of the group toward a criminal may be one of three: it may be an immediate and instinctive resentful attack; it may be a social attitude in which the interests of the offender are still considered identical with those of the group; or it may be an inter-

( 47) -mediate attitude in which the offender is an enemy to some of the group and a friend to others. The first of these reactions is war, the second is one of relatively complete socialization with no place for punishment, while the third alone offers the possibility of punishment.

The primitive group is founded on heredity. To a large number of the tribe there are only two classes into which all the race is divided: kindred and enemies. A harmful act on the part of enemies or strangers is the signal for attack. It is an immediate and instinctive reaction of revenge and retaliation whose object is the destruction of the enemy. The attack goes beyond and often is opposed to self-interest. Neither the state of mind nor the overt reaction is a genuine punitive situation.

It is equally impossible to punish those who are within the group. The interests of the members are identical. If an offence occurs there may be and is expressed disapproval, but no punishment.

Punishment arises when the group becomes complex, when the bonds are not too strong to be broken and when the offence is not serious enough to break it entirely. Only when the offender re-mains within the group is he punished, otherwise he is destroyed.

Since punishment is taking of vengeance by part of the group, modern criminal practice is coming to discard the category. The most enlightened procedure is an attempt to bring back the offender to a place within the group.


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