Document Type

Master's Thesis

Graduation Year

May 2019


Political Theory

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Program Name


Program Director

Joan Baranow, PhD

First Reader

Christian Dean, PhD

Second Reader

Perry Guevara, PhD


Most modern systems of criminal justice tend to be heavily invested in retribution while placing very little emphasis on restoration. This thesis seeks to understand why this tends to be the case, and argues for the benefits of restorative approaches. The analysis is grounded in two fundamental philosophical perspectives, namely, a neo-Marxist view that attends to the effects of basic economic class divisions, and a Foucauldian view that understands power as an expression of hidden strategies of normalization and control as opposed to explicit forms of oppression. Both views help us to arrive at a more critical understanding of the real economic and cultural interests served by retributive policies that are often obscured by the typically idealist criminal justice discourse. Restorative policies, it is argued, must be crafted in a way that does not simply perpetuate the idealist discourse typically expressed in modern criminal justice policies.