Amongst contemporary theorists, the most widespread interpretation of Hegel's theory of punishment is that it is a retributivist theory of annulment, where punishments cancel the performance of crimes. The theory is retributivist because it holds both that (a) criminals can be punished only if punishment is deserved; and (b) the value of punishment must be proportional to the nature of its corresponding crime, rather than to any consequentialist considerations. This chapter begins with an examination of ‘abstract right’ and the role of punishment in this section of the Philosophy of Right, and then considers how the role of punishment changes later in the Philosophy of Right. It argues that Hegel's later treatment of punishment may endorse different punishments whose function may not always be retributivist, and explores how this view coheres with Hegel's earlier treatment. Thus, the chapter rejects the view both that Hegel's most substantive treatment of punishment is contained in ‘abstract right’ and that his full treatment has only a retributivist function and is not open to additional functions, such as deterrence and rehabilitation.
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