Criminal Responsibility and the Idea of Historical Progress

Ely Aaronson


Nicola Lacey’s book In Search of Criminal Responsibility provides an illuminating vantage point from which to consider the place of the idea of progress in the historiography of criminal law. This essay examines the book’s contribution to the problematization of a cluster of interpretive, epistemological and normative underpinnings of historical claims regarding the progressive implications of the development of distinctively modern forms of attributing criminal responsibility. It shows how the genealogical approach that informs Lacey’s analysis exposes the perspectivity of dominant philosophical conceptualizations of criminal responsibility and places new normative questions on the agenda of criminal law theory.

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