An Integrated Theory of Lethal Punishment: Social Geometry, Status Relationships, and the Dehumanization Process

in Comparative Sociology
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Punishment exists universally as a form of social control, spanning a continuum from the physically inconsequential to lethality. What explains observable variations in punishment, or lethal punishment as a form of social control? This paper builds upon Black’s pure sociology framework and Milner’s theory of status relations to argue that lethal punishment occurs mainly under conditions of marginalization, disruptions of the previous social geometries, and social polarization that characterize interpersonal encounters or inter-group relationships. These conditions facilitate the status degradation processes that lead to the dehumanization of the “other.” By the same token, such conditions do not often prevail in familial settings and hence lethal punishments are far less common than the lethality associated with other forms of moralistic violence and state-sanctioned punishments.

An Integrated Theory of Lethal Punishment: Social Geometry, Status Relationships, and the Dehumanization Process

in Comparative Sociology



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Bell and Romano (2012) discuss the opinion data on corporal punishment. In Canada the current legal debates focus on Section 43 of the Criminal Code (Romano Bell and Norian 2013).


Harris and Kim (2015) have shown that immigrants are more likely to be scapegoated and framed as a violent “other” in historical context despite the evidence that immigrants were no more likely to engage in spousal homicides than anyone else.


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