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Thread: Paternalism Vs. Punishment

  1. #1
    Senior Member Array Lark's Avatar
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    Jun 2009

    Default Paternalism Vs. Punishment

    Guys I've been on some training lately to do with practices in residential child care, in the main they involve a greater evidence base for decisions about programmes of care, shifts away from punishments, conditioning and behaviour modification and towards forming attachments, treating developmental deficit, recognising and enabling human potential, growth and development.

    In principle I can very much approve of such a thing, even if I had more trouble with the principle of it all the evidence base is there and our raison detre is a service to meet the needs of young people who are resident and their families not our needs as workers and adults.

    However, it got me thinking, a lot, about needs and competiting needs. This treatment approach has and is continuing to inform the entire UK welfare regime as it continues to change and take shape. Within this approach I believe there are unspoken agreements about whose needs are paramount and in many ways the debate has not been had or thought about.

    Now I dont think it has all be the result of the "sleep walking" electorate or politicians who are long on platitudes and short on policies as they seek to manipulate tax burdens and pre-existing spending commitments to ensure careers in office until retirement. That's a different topic from the competiting needs though perhaps.

    Anyway, if we take the example of prisons (although the applications of sanctions in schools and other institutions could operate in similar fashions), they are full of people who either have not developed a conscience or whose maturation has prejudiced their self-regulation of emotional states, impulsivity, compulsivity their available external and internal problem solvinig or soluton finding skills etc. resulting in criminal behaviour, resulting in imprisonment.

    The treatment model considers their needs to develop and change in positive ways and to be assisted in the process as if not paramount then at least equivocal to those of the victims or their kin who may or may not need assistance overcoming the aftermath or trauma of the crime. There is no real element of punishment or satisfaction for the victim or their kin and there is infact an active discouragement as incivility or a pathologically blocking/damaging pursuit or prospect.

    My question or consideration is that are not the needs of those who have exhibited adaptive and mature more paramount to those who have epically failed to do so? Whatever the accidents of birth or misfortunate circumstances acting upon them in a deterministic fashion is it not right to apportion resources and attribute rewards and penalities in such a way as to recognise and reflect support for the adaptive?

    I've read that while counter intuitive the treatment approach is a practical design for a better society if the long view is taken, there's problems there because its a longer view that the sitting of parliaments and life of single administrations. However even if there wasnt that problem I wonder if the frustration of any degree of satisfaction by those who have benefited from the luck of a good start, good parents, reserves of resilience, emotional competence etc. wont result in a back lash eventually and in the process unheralded authoritarianism and tyranny.

    OK, I'm real tired and writing at a bit of a meandering pace... Probably makes little sense :P

  2. #2


    I have a question for such a system - what results would be taken to the family of a loved one that sought retribution? Would they similarly go unpunished?

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