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date: 16 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The way a society punishes its offenders has become a yardstick by which it can be judged as civilized. In civilized societies, for example, punishment on the human body has become increasingly unacceptable. Prisons have been built in remote locations out of public view, with authorities responsible for undertaking what is seen as the unpleasant task of controlling the inmates. However, as the work of Norbert Elias shows, “being civilized” is a standard that did not simply fall out of the sky one day. Instead, it should be understood as the product of a long-term historical process, one that is contingent and fragile, capable of producing uncivilized consequences itself and capable of being interrupted at any time. Current changes in the penal framework of societies such as the United Kingdom suggest that we may be experiencing one of these “decivilizing” countertrends.

Keywords: Elias, civilizing process, decivilizing, punishment, prison, death penalty

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