Just Deserts: An Interview with Danielle S. Allen

Justin E. H. Smith and Danielle S. Allen in Cabinet:

ScreenHunter_41 Aug. 21 17.17What are the differences in the ways different societies conceptualize punishment? What are the differences in the ways they enact it? And what can be learned by looking at other systems of punishment about the contingency and potential for transformation of our own system? Ancient Athens has often served as a model for certain of the modern world’s deepest aspirations in democratic government and philosophical rationality. At least since Nietzsche, it has also sometimes been approached as an extremely foreign land, whose values and practices, in their strangeness, can at the same time show just how strange our own are. How, now, does Athens look when we turn our attention to its conceptualization and enactment of punishment?

Danielle S. Allen is a political theorist who has addressed these questions in her work on both ancient Athens and modern America. Author of The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens (Princeton University Press, 2000), Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education (University of Chicago Press, 2004), and Why Plato Wrote (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), Allen is UPS Foundation Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Justin E. H. Smith spoke to Allen by phone about the relationship between justice, punishment, and citizenship.

Read the interview here.