American Executions: Death Penalty Politics, European Anti-Americanism and American Anti-Europeanism

Rob Singh, University of London

Although a peripheral part of the American criminal justice system, the implementation of capital punishment in the United States has become a powerful symbol in international politics. Despite the marked regional concentration of executions in the south and increasing successes on the part of abolitionist forces in the US since 2000, capital punishment augments aspects of US foreign policy that stoke 'anti-Americanisms', especially in Europe. Such sentiments have, in turn, prompted nationalist and traditionalist American politicians, scholars and even Supreme Court Justices to invoke capital punishment as a symbol of the problematised nature of international law and multilateral rules and institutions in the post-9/11 era. As such, the internationalisation of death penalty politics has both reflected and reinforced perceptions of a de-coupling of the transatlantic relationship between a Hobbesian American militarism and a Kantian and pacific Europe. This paper analyses the reciprocal politics of the death penalty in the contexts of Europe anti-Americanism and American anti-Europeanism and explores the extent to which the internationalisation of death penalty politics has more reinforced than challenged its constitutionality in the United States.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006