The Discipline of Difference: Ethnolinguistic Heterogeneity and Corporal Punishment

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International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice




The minority threat hypothesis contends that growth in the size of a given minority population along with the ensuing competition for social and political resources will threaten existing social power arrangements. Regarding punishment specifically, the hypothesis states that dominant groups will support coercive measures to keep minority populations sufficiently oppressed. Using the minority threat hypothesis as our theoretical foundation, we posit that the more heterogeneous a population, the more social control will be necessary to maintain societal equilibrium for those in power. In effect a more personal, physical, and visceral response to criminal behavior will be deemed necessary in countries with high levels of fractionalization. This more focused form of social discipline will manifest as corporal punishment. Comparing modalities of punishment against varying population characteristics, we find that countries with higher levels of ethnic, linguistic, and religious fractionalization are more likely to employ corporal punishment against criminal offenders.