x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Book review: Thane Rosenbaum's book on justice lacks great detail

Payback: The Case For Revenge
Thane Rosenbaum
University of Chicago Press
Payback: The Case For Revenge Thane Rosenbaum University of Chicago Press

Payback: The Case For Revenge
Thane Rosenbaum
University of Chicago Press

 

Where does justice end and revenge begin?

The American essayist and law professor Thane Rosenbaum has devoted much of his career to this philosophical question.

In Payback, he explores how seeking justice is socially acceptable, but seeking revenge invites opprobrium for being uncivilised.

The reality is the distinctions between the two overlap and can be nebulous.

Rosenbaum traverses the issues using a combination of real-life cases, ranging from the Nuremberg trials to the killing of Osama bin Laden, and of fictional portrayals, from Hamlet to The Sopranos.

The difficulty for Payback is that it is published soon after The World Until Yesterday, in which Jared Diamond does a superior job on the role of victims in the justice process. Rosenbaum also doesn't help with sloppy attention to facts, such as obvious errors in details of the killing of bin Laden that undermine the credibility of the other examples used in the book.

* John Henzell