FRAL - Programme franco-allemand en Sciences humaines et sociales

Penal cultures on the Continent – France and Germany in comparison – CPC

Submission summary

Punishment and crime are aspects of communal life that play a central role in all societies and whose importance has increased significantly in recent years. Nevertheless, the role of punishment is shaped distinctly both in different countries and in different segments of society. It is understood and used differently by the media, politics and the populace. With this project, we are going to work out commonalities and variations in the use of punishment in Germany and France in said segments as well as the interactions of these segments, which are considered to be formative for the penal culture of society.
The comparative study of penal cultures has so far used a mostly macro-sociological perspective. Specifically following the works of David Garland, research has as a rule looked at a large number of countries with a view to changes in societal structures. This showed that there are fundamental differences in how punishment is used between Anglo-American countries on the one hand and Continental-European – and in particular Scandinavian – countries on the other. This quite schematic perspective, however, is not able to identify more specific differences within these groups of countries.
With this in mind, the proposed project adopts an innovative and essentially distinct approach. For one, we will take only two countries – Germany and France – into account in order to be able to compare these Continental-European countries in much more detail. While they have a lot in common in terms of the legal system and the economic and social structure, there are also fundamental differences such as in the political system or concerning the structure of the media, which both are expected to have significant effects on the penal culture.
But we will not only investigate the role of punishment in these countries with a view to individual indicators or structures. Instead we will also study the societal production of punishment in both societies by adopting a broad perspective. For that, population, politics and media will be studied by use of several quantitative and qualitative methods with a view to the meaning of punishment and its development as well as the attitudes of stakeholders and their practices. In this way, we will be able to show how punishment is understood and used in these segments of society, which effects this has on other segments and how eventually the penal culture of a society is produced. The fundamental differences between Germany and France that are to be expected, promise to provide substantial insights in the societal creation of penal cultures.

Project coordinator

Monsieur Fabien JOBARD (Centre Marc Bloch)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


CMB Centre Marc Bloch
FU Berlin Freie Universität Berlin

Help of the ANR 259,754 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: April 2017 - 36 Months

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