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Democracy, punishment and human rights: paradoxes of the "humanist" political discourse

Grant number: 10/50465-1
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctorate
Effective date (Start): June 01, 2010
Effective date (End): May 31, 2012
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Sociology - Other specific Sociologies
Principal researcher:Sergio França Adorno de Abreu
Grantee:Mariana Thorstensen Possas
Home Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:98/14262-5 - Center for the Study of Violence, AP.CEPID

Abstract

This research aims to observe the relationship between human rights, criminal punishment and the concept of democracy. As previous studies showed, the human rights discourse is often mobilized by the political system to legitimize the "right to punish" and to demand harsh exclusion penalties when it comes to human rights violations. But human rights should not, instead, be used to "humanize" the punishment and to limit the "right to punish"? Or should we instead limit the human rights discourse for those cases where the crime is not considered too violent or especially serious? This paradox requires investigation, since it is still a "blind spot" for many, especially for those who are concerned about the issue of human rights (political, social movement activists, lawyers, etc). Furthermore, when the concept of democracy appears alongside (punitive) the human rights discourse, we have the impression that the first is "contaminated" by a punitive rationality, which includes the perception that severe penalties of imprisonment are essential to the survival of the political system (democratic). The hypothesis that I will work in this research is that the attachment to a certain idea of punishment (socially exclusive and distressing) as the main protector of fundamental rights and of the maintenance of democracy is partly due to the upgrading of a "system of ideas" formed by specific punishment theories (deterrence, rehabilitation, retribution). This "system of ideas" operates as a cognitive obstacle to human rights, toward the recognition of criminal sanctions actually less hostile and more inclusive. (AU)

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