New Criticals

Precisely on this issue of the deep interpenetration of habit and habitat, organism and environment, John Dewey, in Human Nature and Conduct, turns to the image of the criminal as an example. He writes:

Our entire tradition regarding punitive justice tends to prevent recognition of social partnership in producing crime; it falls in with a belief in metaphysical free will. By killing an evil-doer or shutting him up behind stone walls, we are enabled to forget both him and our part in creating him. Society excuses itself by laying the blame on the criminal…

These criminals are constantly pressed upon by social and historical facts, and to bracket these facts in developing our theories of punishment and our responses to crime is not only inadequate and irresponsible, but irrational and immoral as well.