Corporal Punishment Around the World was the first book my coauthor, Laurie Gould, and I wrote together. It explores the history of corporal punishment in a variety of social and historical contexts. Whether in schools, the family, as criminal punishment or religious observance, corporal punishment is as complex as it is pervasive. With increased media coverage of events in the Middle East, Americans in particular have been made aware of this institution’s place in other parts of the world but assigning it as a mere artifact of “alien” cultures misses the larger point. To many the topic may seem a bit odd but it’s pretty fundamental to the human condition. Throughout history we’ve used physical pain to manage one another. Asking why we’ve chosen to do that yields a valuable insight into who we are.

State Fragility Around the World: Fractured Justice and Fierce Reprisal   In our second book together, Laurie Gould and I asked how relative stability impacts a number of government functions. The first thing we noticed is that failed and fragile states often govern through the criminalization of otherwise inconsequential or tolerated acts. These weak states also frequently use kidnapping, murder, and other violent or oppressive tactics to maintain order and stay in power. We analyze the path to state failure, one manifestation of which appears through the fragility and dysfunction of its criminal justice system. We ask what happens when a government loses the ability, or will, to provide basic goods and services to its constituents.