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What Would the World Look Like Without Rewards and Punishments

Breton, Denise
June 4, 2015

Source: (2002) Paper presented at “Dreaming of a New Reality,” the Third International Conference on Conferencing,
Circles and other Restorative Practices, August 8-10, 2002, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The model of rewards and punishments is deeply embedded in our cultural consciousness. What is its purpose? As a model of justice, does it serve us well? Can it create justice among us? Overwhelming research challenges the model as fundamentally damaging to human peace, self-esteem and happiness. Yet can we let it go? What’s real in our interactions without rewards and punishments? Both Socratic and indigenous teaching ground justice in who we are and in “doing what’s ours to do.â€? But because the reward-punishment system has left us inwardly disconnected, justice calls us to go on the healing path to reconnect within. Healing down to our deepest selves, we can dream a world beyond rewards and punishments.


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