definition of sanction

The sanction is the application of some type of penalty or punishment to an individual for certain behavior considered inappropriate, dangerous or illegal. In this sense, the concept of sanction can be understood in two different ways, although similar and interconnected. These two meanings are, basically, the legal and the social, each one with particular elements.

In the first place, a sanction is one of the main elements of the legal field and has been created to represent the penalty or punishment that a subject may receive as a result of the commission of some type of crime or illegal act. In this space, sanctions are set by law and appear as the result of a whole system of categories and hierarchies that makes each act receive a specific and particular type of sanction. For example, both a thief and a murderer receive the sanction of going to jail, but the number of years that this sanction represents will change in each case because the type of crime committed is different.

On the other hand, the sanction can also go outside the merely legal space when it comes to social sanctions. These have to do more than anything with a combination of customs, traditions, behaviors and attitudes approved by each culture that end up building their moral and ethical structure together. Understood in this way, the sanction can then become a much more indefinite element since it is not governed by a law but by common sense in most cases. The sanction can then be represented by a challenge, a disapproving look, discrimination and even indifference on the part of the remaining individuals to the act committed. Such is the case of a person who throws garbage on public roads in a place where such an act is not punishable by law: the social sanction will probably make people look at him badly and disapprove of his behavior without necessarily receiving a punishment.