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Bureaucracy, "domesticated" elites, and the abolition of capital punishment : processes of state-formation and the number of executions in England and Habsburg Austria between 1700 and 1914

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Reicher, Dieter

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Abstract The paper argues that the introduction of bureaucracy civilized death penalty and brutal punishment. The study bases on a quantitative analysis of the numbers of death sentences and executions in England and Habsburg Austria from 1700 to 1914 and on a qualitative analysis of historical literature about the death penalty in both countries. The paper shows that professional law enforcement specialists, bureaucrats, civil servants, and detached juridical stuff formed a new class of "domesticated middlemen elites". In strong states, this new class becomes the dominating group. In weak states, however, old elites that combine economic and political power preserve their privileged positions. For them capital punishment is the most proper mean to deter criminals because old elites fear the alternative: the introduction of strong-state institutions. Beside obvious power struggles between central and local elites—which effects penal policy pro and con capital punishment—there is a civilizing process going beneath the surface of rationality and political interests. In strong states, the formation of a "habitus" averse to brutal punishment is initiated amongst "domesticated middlemen elites" who are acting in peaceful living- and working conditions.
Keywords Great Britain; Austria; death penalty; bureaucratization; state formation; prosecution; police; social control; law; centralization
Classification Criminal Sociology, Sociology of Law; Political System, Constitution, Government
Method empirical; historical
Document language English
Publication Year 2010
Page/Pages p. 279-297
Journal Crime, Law and Social Change, 54 (2010) 3-4
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)