The Dogma of Opposing Welfare and Retribution

Leora Dahan Katz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is a common refrain in the literature on punishment that presumes the mutual exclusivity of defending retribution and adopting a humanistic or welfare-oriented outlook. The refrain, that if we want to be humane, or care about human welfare, we must abandon retributive punishment, anger, and resentment is readily repeated, endorsed, and relied upon. This article suggests that this opposition is false: retribution and welfare-orientation can not only be endorsed concomitantly, but are complimentary projects, and may even be grounded in the same normative basis, such that if we endorse one we are already committed to ideas that ground reason to care about the other. My primary target will be claims that aim to undermine retributivism by demonstrating the desirability of welfare-orientation. If both can live together, demonstrating the attractiveness of one goes nowhere toward displacing the other. Further, establishing this claim invites further inquiry into classic questions about the barbaric, or morally repugnant credentials of retributivism. Confronting these claims will elucidate the consistency of adopting both retributive and welfare-oriented views, which, I suggest, can be jointly adopted and pursued.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2-28
Number of pages27
JournalLegal Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - 4 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press.


  • Consequentialism
  • Justification
  • Mass incarceration
  • Punishment
  • Retributivism
  • Suffering
  • Welfare


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