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Why We Punish in the Name of Justice: Just Desert versus Value Restoration and the Role of Social Identity

Wenzel, Michael
June 4, 2015

Source: (2006) Social Justice Research. 19(4):450-470.

Two different notions of justice might motivate people to demand punishment
of an offender. The offense could be seen as lowering the victim’s and community’s
status/power position relative to the offender, requiring a degradation
of the offender to restore a moral balance (just desert). Or, the offense
could be seen as questioning community values, requiring a reaffirmation of
those values through social consensus (value restoration). Two studies
referring to tax evasion and social welfare fraud yielded supportive evidence.
Just desert was related to traditional punishment, especially when participants
did not identify with a relevant inclusive community (Australians).
Value restoration was related to alternative (restorative) punishment,
especially when community values were regarded as diverse and requiring
consensualization. It tended to be related to traditional punishment when
community values were regarded as clear and consensual.(author’s abstract)


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