Command and Persuade: Crime, Law, and the State across History
Why, when we have been largely socialized into good behavior, are there more laws that govern our behavior than ever before?
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.
Praise for Command and Persuade: Crime, Law, and the State across History
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
"Concentrating on the modern state's role in combating crime in the US and Europe, Baldwin masterfully blends history, criminal justice, science, and ideology at a very high level... highly recommended."
"Baldwin’s ambitious all-encompassing view of the emergence of the penal state at the international level is both informative and digestible."
—Law and Politics Book Review
"Command and Persuade is compellingly framed with the question – why do we feel more ‘beleaguered’ by crime even when we ‘objectively have the least to fear’?... the book’s greatest strength is its impressive scope and broad context. Command and Persuade offers a truly longue durée perspective to the issue of crime as a State responsibility. In doing so, Baldwin gives substantial context to criminological perspectives that are often lacking in the literature. Modern criminology – like the social sciences in general – is often guilty of ignoring the world before the Enlightenment. Baldwin’s work will help remedy that. It also brings substantial precision to an often admittedly vague discourse about State power and social control. This is a nuanced picture of multiple government apparatuses gradually developing in response to many impulses and outside stimuli… Command and Persuade is a stimulating book rich with content and a wide scope."