These are but two of the difficult questions that arise when one examines the claim that crime is a public wrong. I take it, though, that their difficulty is an indication of the importance of thinking through the presuppositions and implications of this conception of crime, not a reason to abandon it. A thorough 'thinking through' is too large and complex a task for this chapter, but it is possible to make a case here for the right way to proceed with such an undertaking. That right way, in my view, is to look to the republican tradition of political thought for guidance in unravelling the problems that surround the analysis and practice of criminal law. In particular, I shall argue that republicanism can help us to understand what 'the public' is, how an action may wrong it, and why some of those wrongs should be designated crimes.

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Copyright © 2009 Oxford University Press. This chapter first appeared in Legal Republicanism: National and International Perspectives.

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