Command and Persuade
Crime, Law, and the State across History
Why, when we have been largely socialized into good behavior, are there more laws that govern our behavior than ever before?
Levels of violent crime have been in a steady decline for centuries—for millennia, even. Over the past five hundred years, homicide rates have decreased a hundred-fold. We live in a time that is more orderly and peaceful than ever before in human history. Why, then, does fear of crime dominate modern politics? Why, when we have been largely socialized into good behavior, are there more laws that govern our behavior than ever before? In Command and Persuade, Peter Baldwin examines the evolution of the state's role in crime and punishment over three thousand years.
Baldwin explains that the involvement of the state in law enforcement and crime prevention is relatively recent. In ancient Greece, those struck by lightning were assumed to have been punished by Zeus. In the Hebrew Bible, God was judge, jury, and prosecutor when Cain killed Abel. As the state's power as lawgiver grew, more laws governed behavior than ever before; the sum total of prohibited behavior has grown continuously. At the same time, as family, community, and church exerted their influences, we have become better behaved and more law-abiding. Even as the state stands as the socializer of last resort, it also defines through law the terrain on which we are schooled into acceptable behavior.
Hardcover$29.95 T ISBN: 9780262045629 480 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 0
“In this brilliant and wide-ranging study, Peter Baldwin deftly demonstrates with a cornucopia of historical facts how in the course of centuries an increasingly law-abiding citizenry became more and more hemmed in by the state's proliferating prohibitions.”
Abram de Swaan
Distinguished Research Professor, University of Amsterdam; author of The Killing Compartments: The Mentality of Mass Murder and In Care of the State: Health Care, Education and Welfare in Europe and the USA in the Modern Era
“Provocative and engaging; an enormously, and refreshingly, long- and wide-ranging historical reflection on crime and its governance over three millennia.”
Professor of Law & Criminology and Director, Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto; author of The Police Power: Patriarchy and the Foundations of American Government and The Dual Penal State: The Crisis of Criminal Law in Comparative-Historical Perspective
“Command and Persuade takes readers on a tour across the long sweep of history, a backdrop that highlights the contradictions of modern penal politics. In doing so, Baldwin has done for punishment what Steven Pinker has done for crime.”
Ashley T. Rubin
Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa; author of The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829–1913