Individual Sacrality, Human Rights, and Abolition of the Death Penalty Open Access

Mathias, Matthew Donald (2013)

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In the latter half of the 20th century, countries abolished the death penalty en masse. What factors help to explain this global trend? Conventional analyses explain abolition by focusing primarily on state level political processes, typically emphasizing democracies' natural respect for human rights as the most primary driver of abolition. Yet, this focus takes democratic governments' commitment to human rights for granted, and ignores the historical development of these rights as a global ideology and institution. I seek to redress this shortcoming in the literature by linking the historical development of human rights to the modern movement to abolish the death penalty. I first supply a brief historical overview of the death penalty that emphasizes the role of the Enlightenment's secular reconfiguration of the individual's rights and properties in sponsoring the modern widespread revulsion for the death penalty. Second, I develop and apply a Bayesian changepoint model to comprehensive data on the global legislative abolition of the death penalty trend from 1863-2007 to examine both its timing and mechanisms. For the first, the model pinpoints 1978 as the moment in time when the global abolition rate transitioned from a relatively infrequent event to a highly frequent event. For the second, I find that the global institutionalization of the human rights regime positively contributed to the abolition trend throughout the period. Third, I develop a survival analysis of states' abolition of the death penalty. This chapter analyzes world cultural factors that lend to the abolition trend. The main finding shows that the global sacralization of the individual, measured as the institutionalization of the human rights regime, represents a significant driver of states' abolition. Finally, I conduct an multilevel analysis of states' execution behavior, and find that both the global count of states using execution in a given year, and the number of prisoners countries execute in a given year are responsible to world cultural models for human rights. In sum, I show how historical and cultural factors shape states' use of and abolition of the death penalty.

Table of Contents


Chapter One...1


Chapter Two...13

A Brief History of the Death Penalty

Chapter Three...52

Abolition in the Era of Human Rights: A Bayesian Changepoint Model for Abolition of the Death Penalty

Chapter Four...95

The Sacralization of the Individual: Human Rights and the Abolition of the Death Penalty

Chapter Five...148

Explaining Global and National Patterns in the Use of the Death Penalty

Chapter Six...192



Appendix A...223

Appendix B...225

Appendix C...225

Appendix D...226

Appendix E...227

Appendix F...227

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