Command and Persuade: Crime, Law, and the State across History (Hardcover)
Why, when we have been largely socialized into good behavior, are there more laws that govern our behavior than ever before? Voted one of the best law books of 2021 by the UK Times.
Levels of violent crime have been in a steady decline for centuries--for millennia, even. Over the past five hundred years, homicide rates have decreased a hundred-fold. We live in a time that is more orderly and peaceful than ever before in human history. Why, then, does fear of crime dominate modern politics? Why, when we have been largely socialized into good behavior, are there more laws that govern our behavior than ever before? In Command and Persuade, Peter Baldwin examines the evolution of the state's role in crime and punishment over three thousand years.
Baldwin explains that the involvement of the state in law enforcement and crime prevention is relatively recent. In ancient Greece, those struck by lightning were assumed to have been punished by Zeus. In the Hebrew Bible, God was judge, jury, and prosecutor when Cain killed Abel. As the state’s power as lawgiver grew, more laws governed behavior than ever before; the sum total of prohibited behavior has grown continuously. At the same time, as family, community, and church exerted their influences, we have become better behaved and more law-abiding. Even as the state stands as the socializer of last resort, it also defines through law the terrain on which we are schooled into acceptable behavior.
About the Author
Peter Baldwin is Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Global Distinguished Professor in the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies at NYU. He is the author of The Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle, The Narcissism of Minor Differences: How America and Europe Are Alike, Contagion and the State in Europe, 1830–1930, and Disease and Democracy: The Industrialized World Faces AIDS.
One of the six best law books of 2021, The Times (UK)
"Historians, criminologists, and those with a strong academic interest in policing and criminal justice will learn a great deal from this book."
"[Peter] Baldwin is a historian who is addressing readers for whom libertarianism may well become an emotional as well as a ratiocinative lifeline, and the wealth of scholarship he marshals is extraordinary. Mind you, there’s not so much as a hint in the book that its author is a libertarian himself, or even harbors any more than very broadly libertarian sympathies. But his masterful handling of the subject matter, as indeed the translatory impetus he gives to the subject itself, is such that his book would make a libertarian of Pol Pot… The book is a feast."
—Andrei Navrozov, The Fleming Foundation