Deterrence (Sociology)

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  • A goal of punishment, deterrence supposes people can be discouraged from acting if the cost of doing an act outweighs the benefits derived from that act. Deterrence is rooted in the premise that people are rational and make decisions about their behavior by conducting a straightforward cost-benefit analysis. Deterrence theory emerged in the second half of the 18th century as ideas associated with the Enlightenment came to be applied to matters of crime and punishment. Cesare Beccaria popularized the concept of deterrence with his seminal book Essays on Crimes and Punishments, published in 1764. According to Beccaria, the utility of punishment in a society is to prevent crime by deterring criminal acts. He asserted that if the pains of a punishment outweigh the gains and ...

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