Monday, July 4, 2011

Garapon on American vs. French Justice

Arun Kapil reproduces a text by Antoine Garapon comparing US and French justice. Quite insightful, although I think, as I said in my earlier post on this subject, still a tad formalistic in its analysis. The basic description is right, but particular cases have a way of bending the neat distinctions.

Kapil also reproduces two Le Monde op-eds from a while back. Worth reading. James Whitman, whose work I respect, tends at times to a somewhat reductionist view based on the contrast between two types of democratic leveling, from the bottom up in France, from the top down in the US. In the DSK, this leads him to suspect a systematic humiliation of a powerful and privileged man. Yes and no. I do think that the egalitarian impulse is a powerful and laudable ingredient of American justice, but here this is only part of the story. Rape is a special type of crime, and the way it is dealt with in the US has less to do with general principles of egalitarianism than with particularly sensitivities honed over the past three decades by the women's movement. Alleged victims were not always treated so deferentially, despite egalitarian traditions; quite the contrary. Whitman's culturalist argument has a tendency to become ahistorical. Still, his book contrasting criminal punishment in the US and France is very much worth reading.

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