1st Edition

The Pleasure of Punishment

By Magnus Hörnqvist Copyright 2021
    180 Pages
    by Routledge

    180 Pages
    by Routledge

    Based on a reading of contemporary philosophical arguments, this book accounts for how punishment has provided audiences with pleasure in different historical contexts. Watching tragedies, contemplating hell, attending executions, or imagining prisons have generated pleasure, according to contemporary observers, in ancient Greece, in medieval Catholic Europe, in the early-modern absolutist states, and in the post-1968 Western world.

    The pleasure was often judged morally problematic, and raised questions about which desires were satisfied, and what the enjoyment was like. This book offers a research synthesis that ties together existing work on the pleasure of punishment. It considers how the shared joys of punishment gradually disappeared from the public view at a precise historic conjuncture, and explores whether arguments about the carnivalesque character of cruelty can provide support for the continued existence of penal pleasure. Towards the end of this book, the reader will discover, if willing to go along and follow desire to places which are full of pain and suffering, that deeply entwined with the desire for punishment, there is also the desire for social justice.

    An accessible and compelling read, this book will appeal to students and scholars of criminology, sociology, philosophy and all those interested in the pleasures of punishment.

    Introduction: Articulating the problematic of desire  1. The disappearance of pleasure?  2. The impossible flight from passion  3. The ambiguous desire for recognition  4. The paradox of tragic pleasure  5. Two paradigms of enjoyment  6. Ressentiment: moral elevation through punishment  7.Obscene enjoyment: between power and prohibition


    Magnus Hörnqvist is Professor of Criminology at Stockholm University. In a series of research projects, he has investigated the productivity power in state-organised arenas and shown how normality and inequality are being created through interventions directed toward challenges of a conceived order. Publications in English include Risk, Power and the State (Routledge 2010) and articles in journals such as Regulation & Governance, Philosophy & Social Criticism and Punishment & Society. Publications in Swedish include a monograph on the Foucauldian analysis of power (Carlsson 2012) and an introductory book on social class (Liber 2016). It is essential reading for those engaged with penology, criminological and social theory and the sociology of punishment.

    "Does punishment produce pleasure? Through historical, philosophical, and cultural analyses, this book brilliantly explains why societies seem to desire punishment. By taking us to the root of this desire, Hörnqvist vividly explores how punishment fulfils moral aspirations for social esteem. This extraordinary book pushes our understanding of punishment far beyond crime and law, and into the social study of morality, inequality, and everyday politics."

    Ron Levi, Distinguished Professor of Global Justice, University of Toronto