Concepts of culture in the sociology of punishment

David Garland

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The author analyses the different ways in which the concept of ‘culture’ is currently deployed in the sociology of punishment. Using a distinction first developed by W.H. Sewell Jr, he distinguishes two usages of the concept—culture as an analytical dimension of social relations (‘the cultural’) and culture as a collective entity (‘a culture’). The theoretical issues and problems entailed in these two usages are discussed and several pragmatic solutions proposed. The author argues that analytical accounts of ‘the cultural’ should be regarded as artificial (though necessary) abstractions. Descriptive ethnography, discourse analysis and textual explication ought to be viewed as components of historical or sociological explanation, not as substitutes for explanatory analysis. The author argues for the integration of cultural analysis into the explanatory project of a multi-dimensional sociology of punishment.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)419-447
    Number of pages29
    JournalTheoretical Criminology
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Nov 2006


    • cultural
    • culture
    • explanation
    • explication
    • meaning
    • punishment
    • sociology

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Law


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