The Universal Grammar of Criminal Law

There is something about the criminal law that invites comparative analysis. The interests it protects are so basic, and its concerns so fundamental, that it is natural to ask whether there are aspects of criminal law that are somehow universal. We want to know whether familiar concepts such as murder and manslaughter, intent and negligence, and insanity and mistake, are characteristic of other systems of criminal law as well, and, if so, what role they play there. In the last generation, no criminal law scholar has made better use of comparative law techniques than George Fletcher, the Cardozo Professor of Jurisprudence at Columbia Law School. And, not coincidentally, no scholar has done more to define and probe the fundamental principles of our own system of criminal justice. Now, twenty years after the publication of his classic Rethinking Criminal Law, Fletcher offers Basic Concepts of Criminal Law, a concise, fair-minded, and remarkably clear synthesis of virtually all of the major debates in contemporary criminal law theory.