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Punishment has historically functioned as a key factor of social control. At different times, its mechanisms, techniques, and purposes have varied significantly, changing the authority and legitimacy of those who have sought to shape and govern a social order. The sociological notion of social control elaborated at the beginning of the 20th century refers to multiple elements that cannot simply be reduced to law, criminal law in particular. However, especially after the revisionist turn of the 1970s, the idea of social control as a coercive response to deviant behaviors through penal and institutionalized mechanisms has made inroads into research on the history of criminal justice. At first, the origins and development of prisons in late modernity as models of punishment in place of medieval corporal chastisements were scrutinized. The penal shift from the body to the soul, beneath its rhetoric of rationalization and humanization, was driven by conscious projects for controlling and disciplining a changing society by means of institutions of confinement. Although this interpretation was occasionally criticized, it contributed to the development of a critical historical analysis of criminal law in which the notion of social control can be profitably applied to the study of different periods and features of the penal apparatus. A first example is the age of medieval ius commune (12th–16th centuries), when emergent sovereign entities characterizing the pluralistic political scenario before the formations of modern states extensively resorted to a strategic use of criminal law to impose their hegemonic powers. A second case is penal modernism. In the last decades of the 19th century, when state monopolies of violence were undisputed and imprisonment was largely imposed, criminological positivism brought about a rethinking of the rationale of punishment based on the idea of social defense, which also implied a reconceptualization of criminal law as a means of social control.


Sophie Vanhoonacker

The Treaty of Amsterdam was the result of the 1996–1997 Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) among the then 15 EU member states (March 1996–June 1998). Its three core objectives were making Europe more relevant to its citizens, enabling it to work better and preparing it for enlargement, and giving it greater capacity for external action. It was the first IGC since the enlargement with Austria, Finland, and Sweden, who had joined the European Union (EU) in 1995. The negotiations took place in the aftermath of the collapse of the communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, opening the prospect of an eastern enlargement. Shortly before the start of the IGC, the Madrid European Council (December 1995) had confirmed that the decisions on launching the accession negotiations would be taken within six months of the conclusion of the IGC. The Treaty was not the critical juncture in European-integration history, which the previous Maastricht Treaty had been. The 1996–1997 IGC tried to complete some of the unfinished work of its predecessor. This included the further extension of qualified majority voting (QMV) and codecision, the shaping of a European security policy and making further progress in dossiers such as energy, civil protection, and the hierarchy of norms. Still it would be erroneous simply to downplay the Treaty as a mere “leftover” text. Under the leadership of the successive Italian, Irish, and Dutch presidencies, the heads of state or government reached an agreement on an employment chapter, a strengthening of social policy, the creation of the position of a high representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), a partial communitarization of cooperation in the field of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), provisions on flexible integration and the integration of Schengen into the Treaty. Highly sensitive issues such as the reweighting of the Council voting system and the size of the European Commission were postponed to the next IGC. After a relatively smooth ratification process, which raised little public attention, the Treaty of Amsterdam entered into force on May1, 1999.