September 23, 2010

Camus' "The Outsider" and Criminal Punishment Theory

Emlyn Walter Cruickshank, Australian National University College of Law, has published Dialogues of Indifference: Albert Camus' 'The Outsider' and Criminal Punishment Theory , as ANU College of Law Research Paper No. 10-29. Here is the abstract.
This paper was written as an honours paper under the supervision of Dr Tony Connolly.

Upon reading Albert Camus’ 'The Outsider', the curious feeling arises that despite his indifference at having killed a man, Meursault is not the real villain of the story. The villains are those who punish him and the institution through which this punishment is administered. This feeling rests upon a strong sense of injustice – a sense that the institution of law did not treat Meursault as it could have, and certainly not as it should. Camus thereby raises genuine issue that philosophers of criminal punishment ought to be concerned with.

Camus articulates an improper and absurd administration of punishment. In so doing he gives an alternate framework with which to appraise prevailing theories of criminal punishment. My primary thesis is that those sympathetic to Camus' existentialist concern should be more inclined toward punishment justified as communicative retribution. The theories of utilitarianism and other variants of retributivism - intrinsic desert, unfair advantage and censure - are either disinterested in the behaviour of Camus' court or implicitly condone it.

Secondarily, and by necessary implication, I advocate the worth of an interdisciplinary approach to the development of jurisprudential thought generally. Building upon the Law and Literature movement, this paper impresses the value in using critical images of the law cast by existentialist literature in order to determine the theoretical framework which best justifies the existence of a legal practise and regulates the adjudicative processes through which it is administered. Further, it examples how this can be achieved.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

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