Center for Law and Philosophy
Center on Global Governance
The theoretical inquiry into the foundations of criminal law in the twentieth century, in both civil and common law traditions, is assayed by the consideration of seven main currents or trends. First, the structure of offenses is examined in light of the bipartite, tripartite, and quadripartite modes of analysis. Second, competing theories of culpability – normative and descriptive – are weighed in connection with their important ramifications for the presumption of proof and the allocation of the burden of persuasion on defenses. Third, the struggle with alternatives to punishment for the control and commitment of dangerous but non-criminal persons is compared in civil and common law approaches. Fourth, the ascendancy of feminism, as the most successful interdisciplinary school of thought applied to criminal law since the early 1970s, and its contributions in the areas of rape, selfdefense, provocation, and capital punishment are charted and weighed. Fifth, one of the most distinctive facets of criminal theory in the last century has been the emergence of the victims' rights movement; its success is compared in civil and common law jurisdictions. Sixth, while it is commonplace in the civil law tradition to embed issues of criminal law within the principles of constitutional law, common law jurisdictions vary; the increasing constitutionalization of criminal law in Canada is contrasted with its decrease in the U.S. Seventh, against the backdrop of a particularly intense period of codification of the criminal law in the last half of the twentieth century, the celebrated American Model Penal Code is criticized. Finally, four predictions for the direction of criminal theory in the next century are ventured.
George P. Fletcher,
Criminal Theory in the Twentieth Century,
Theoretical Inq. L.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/1058