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Payback: The Case for Revenge
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We call it justice - the assassination of Osama bin Laden, the incarceration of corrupt politicians or financiers like Rod Blagojevich and Bernard Madoff, and the climactic slaying of cinema-screen villains by superheroes. But could we not also call it revenge? We are told that revenge is uncivilized and immoral, an impulse that individuals and societies should actively repress and replace with the order and codes of courtroom justice. What, if anything, distinguishes punishment at the hands of the government from a victim's individual desire for retribution? Are vengeance and justice really so very different? No, answers legal scholar and novelist Thane Rosenbaum in Payback-revenge is, in fact, indistinguishable from justice. Revenge, Rosenbaum argues, is not the problem. It is, in fact, a perfectly healthy emotion. Instead, the problem is the inadequacy of lawful outlets through which to express it. He mounts a case for legal systems to punish the guilty commensurate with their crimes as part of a societal moral duty to satisfy the needs of victims to feel avenged. Indeed, the legal system would better serve the public if it gave victims the sense that vengeance was being done on their behalf. Drawing on a wide range of support, from recent studies in behavioral psychology and neuroeconomics, to stories of vengeance and justice denied, to revenge practices from around the world, to the way in which revenge tales have permeated popular culture - including "Hamlet", "The Godfather", and "Braveheart" - Rosenbaum demonstrates that vengeance needs to be more openly and honestly discussed and lawfully practiced. Fiercely argued and highly engaging, "Payback" is a provocative and eye-opening cultural tour of revenge and its rewards - from Shakespeare to "The Sopranos". Rosenbaum liberates revenge from its social stigma and proves that vengeance is indeed ours, a perfectly human and acceptable response to moral injury.
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About the Author

Thane Rosenbaum is the author of The Myth of Moral Justice: Why Our Legal System Fails to Do What's Right, as well as four novels. His articles, reviews, and essays appear frequently in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Huffington Post, among others. He is the John Whelan Distinguished Lecturer in Law at Fordham Law School, and he directs the Forum on Law, Culture, and Society.

Reviews

"Because it is often regarded as 'un-Christian,' revenge has acquired a bad name. In this incisive analysis, Thane Rosenbaum argues that revenge is a hunger in most injured hearts and the very fundament of our idea of justice. This is a compelling and provocative book, immensely valuable both for its close reasoning and its honesty." -Scott Turow"

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