Comparative Capital Punishment
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Comparative Capital Punishment

Edited by Carol S. Steiker and Jordan M. Steiker

Comparative Capital Punishment offers a set of in-depth, critical and comparative contributions addressing death practices around the world. Despite the dramatic decline of the death penalty in the last half of the twentieth century, capital punishment remains in force in a substantial number of countries around the globe. This research handbook explores both the forces behind the stunning recent rejection of the death penalty, as well as the changing shape of capital practices where it is retained. The expert contributors address the social, political, economic, and cultural influences on both retention and abolition of the death penalty and consider the distinctive possibilities and pathways to worldwide abolition.
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Chapter 8: Methods of execution: the American story in comparative perspective

Austin Sarat and Keshav Pant


This chapter examines methods of execution in the United States, France, Germany, Japan and China. It describes the methods employed in each nation and how they work. We consider how each nation addresses the problems of spectacle and pain in their execution practices and the adequacy of the ‘civilizing hypothesis’ in explaining variation in those practices. We argue that more brutal and gruesome methods of execution are reserved for states under a great deal of pressure, either internally or from foreign powers. We note that the United States remains an outlier. Despite its modernity, westernization and relative security, the US boasts a whopping five different legal methods of execution and is unusual in its explicit commitment to prohibiting cruelty in the execution process.

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