chapter  2
9 Pages

On Gabriel Tarde, Penal Philosophy

ByPiers Beirne

During the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first two of the twentieth, the writings of the French magistrate and scholar Gabriel Tarde exercised considerable influence in continental Europe, the United States, and in other parts of the Anglophone world. For Tarde, individual responsibility must lie at the very heart of penal philosophy, and at both the psychological and the sociological levels the state has a compelling duty to cultivate it. Conservative though some aspects of his criminology and penal philosophy undoubtedly were, Tarde opposed such movements not only because they threatened an orderly recovery from social and political crisis but also and chiefly because their imitative effects destroyed individual responsibility. For Tarde, individual responsibility must lie at the very heart of penal philosophy, and at both the psychological and the sociological levels the state has a compelling duty to cultivate it.