Religion, culture and punishment. Rethinking the sociology of punishment

Bojnordi, Abdolreza Javan Jafari (2006) Religion, culture and punishment. Rethinking the sociology of punishment. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 10390586.pdf] PDF
Download (11MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


The sociology of penal practice has failed methodically to investigate religion as a powerful cultural element in shaping of criminal justice systems. For many years Marxian, Weberian and Foucauldian works have dominated socio-cultural theories of punishment. They were concerned more with fields of class control and disciplinary domination rather than with cultural phenomena such as religion. Technological and bureaucratic analysis of punishment is the dominant discourse in the contemporary sociology of penal practice. Researchers have started to examine more attentively the function and role of culture in the forming of penal policy and in the cultural ramifications of penal practices, and religion as a prominent element of culture, has been the site of intensive social inquiry. However, as yet, investigation into the role of religion as a prominent cultural element in shaping criminal justice system has not been systematically initiated. Whereas the vast majority of scholarly writings in legal subjects have not discussed the relationship between religion and criminal law, the area of criminal justice has in fact been often deeply influenced by religious beliefs. Despite secularist movements during past centuries, there is still common ground between religion, morality and criminal law. The Durkheimian analysis of religion, society and punishment provides us with a systematic understanding of the relationship between religion and punishment. It is the contention of this thesis that, the religious nature of penal practice can be traced in various forms of penal practice. In Durkheim's terms, sacred moral principles, as the totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average member of a society are the foundation of social integration, without which society cannot exist. The form and content of these moral principles may undergo transformation from one system to another, but their religious or sacred nature is unchanging. Differences between traditional and modem religions are more a matter of degree than of substance. The present study has undertaken to show that focusing on punishment as a political tactic, managerial technique, or calculated instrument for the purposive control of behaviour is misleading and misses reference to an essential part of penal practice. I have illustrated this argument in two different contemporary societies, the USA and Iran. I have shown that how religious attitudes shaped criminal justice in America and what are the impacts of religious forms of government on criminal law and practice of punishment in the case of Iran. Such a superficial perspective on punishment can be misleadingly taken as pointing to the real substance of punishment. Thus, punishment should not be understood only in terms of complex forms of power and discipline, as Foucault explained or in terms of bureaucratic, professional and managerial considerations as described in a Weberian terms. The time has arrived to take religion seriously as a powerful cultural factor in the sociological study of punishment.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Criminology, punishment, religion.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
K Law > K Law (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Farmer, Professor Lindsay
Date of Award: 2006
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2006-71023
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 09 May 2019 14:28
Last Modified: 19 May 2021 13:01
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.71023

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year