This chapter speculates that contemporary understandings of retribution have come to see it either as a good, or as a deontological side constraint on action, rather than as an affirmative deontological duty, as earlier versions saw it (or purported to see it). Yet if retribution is formulated as a good or a constraint, it loses its centrality as a basis for punishment: under such a view, retribution may be one consideration, among others, favoring (or opposing) punishment, but it cannot justify punishment except in a very narrow sense. Accordingly, characterizing retributivism as a “theory of punishment,” which was never entirely apt, now seems untenable. As an alternative, the chapter favors an overtly pluralistic scheme in which various principled and practical considerations, including retributivist considerations, may inform punishment policy at both the systemic and the individual level.
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