Rethinking the Social Environment in Criminal Law Theory and Doctrine: Interdisciplinary Perspectives
- Start: Sep 23, 2022
- End: Sep 24, 2022
- Location: Freiburg – via Zoom
- Host: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law
- Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Admittedly, neither mainstream theories of criminal responsibility nor legal doctrines in most systems account for adverse socio-environmental factors. Yet, consideration of such factors has fuelled heated debate among criminal law scholars over the years, and this debate is ongoing. Importantly, current discussions also consider growing insights from behavioral and brain sciences about the ineradicable bond between socio-environmental factors and behavioral outcomes. These insights indicate that socio-contextual factors constantly shape brain structure and function and that, as a consequence, they are among the major determinants of psychological states and social conduct.
From a descriptive standpoint, it is not in doubt that the social environment profoundly influences individuals’ behavior in social contexts. However, whether such influences should bear on criminal responsibility, and possibly provide a ground for an excuse, is normatively challenging. (Why) should the criminal law continue to operate through individualistic schemes of human behavior, or (why) should the criminal law embrace a broader, and more empirically defensible view of humans as agents who are enmeshed in their own social realities?
In the attempt to respond to these vexed normative questions, the workshop will address the following issues:
- (To what extent) should averse socio-environmental conditions receive excusing weight in culpability determinations?
- Are current culpability doctrines suitable to accommodate socio-environmental factors?
- Should the criminal law provide for an explicit socio-environmental excuse doctrine (either total or partial)?
- What normative arguments and justifications support, or run against, the provision of a socio-environmental excuse/defense?
- How can science contribute to the provision of such an excuse/defense?
- How could such an excuse “translate” into a defense in criminal trials (e.g., how could such a defense be formulated? What kind of evidence would have to be provided)?
- What kind of implications would the inclusion of the “socio-environmental background” in culpability determinations carry for punishment and criminal policy?
Leading scholars from Europe and the United States will discuss and confront their views on these controversial issues under interdisciplinary, theoretical, and doctrinal perspectives. The panels will culminate in a roundtable discussion about the procedural and policy implications of a hypothetical socio-contextual model of criminal law.