This paper discusses some theoretical and practical challenges that terrorism poses to a normative theory of punishment, using a theory of recognition as the main basis for critique. Punishment exists in constant tension with principles such as individual autonomy and human dignity, which the contemporary legal framework strives to uphold. The limits of this tension are both defined and challenged by situations of radical deviance, of which the current paradigmatic case is terrorism. Theorists such as Antony Duff who attempt to define punishment as a communicative endeavor, and thus justified in the eyes of a liberal political community, find a hard case in the figure of the terrorist. But such an analysis misses an important point in relation to the social nature of autonomy, and such absence risks jeopardizing the whole communicative process that punishment presumably preserves. From the perspective of recognition, this paper aims to reflect upon the criminalization of the terrorist in a way that not only criticizes it, but also puts the aforementioned justification of punishment into question.
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