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Governing Through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear (Studies in Crime and Public Policy)

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Author: Simon, Jonathan

Brand: Oxford University Press

Edition: 1

Binding: Paperback

Number Of Pages: 344

Release Date: 08-05-2009

Details: Product Description

Across America today gated communities sprawl out from urban centers, employers enforce mandatory drug testing, and schools screen students with metal detectors. Social problems ranging from welfare dependency to educational inequality have been reconceptualized as crimes, with an attendant focus on assigning fault and imposing consequences. Even before the recent terrorist attacks, non-citizen residents had become subject to an increasingly harsh regime of detention and deportation, and prospective employees subjected to background checks. How and when did our everyday world become dominated by fear, every citizen treated as a potential criminal?

In this startlingly original work, Jonathan Simon traces this pattern back to the collapse of the New Deal approach to governing during the 1960s when declining confidence in expert-guided government policies sent political leaders searching for new models of governance. The War on Crime offered a ready solution to their problem: politicians set agendas by drawing analogies to crime and redefined the ideal citizen as a crime victim, one whose vulnerabilities opened the door to overweening government intervention. By the 1980s, this transformation of the core powers of government had spilled over into the institutions that govern daily life. Soon our schools, our families, our workplaces, and our residential communities were being governed through crime.

This powerful work concludes with a call for passive citizens to become engaged partners in the management of risk and the treatment of social ills. Only by coming together to produce security, can we free ourselves from a logic of domination by others, and from the fear that currently rules our everyday life.


"Ambitious and carefully reasoned... thought-provoking... argues that what sociologists are calling "mass imprisonment" (because such a large portion of the population is now involved) signals not only a new approach to managing crime, but to managing society... The most innovative sections of his book, however, outline how an increasingly insular, risk averse, and punitive social ethic has reshaped not only how the other half lives but how the top half does as well."-- Boston Review

"Every thoughtful citizen should confront the arguments that are so lucidly presented in this book. Highly recommended." -- CHOICE

"In Governing through Crime, Jonathan Simon powerfully and persuasively argues that America's obsession with crime has touched, indeed distorted, the fundamental building blocks of our democratic society. According to this sweeping analysis, our conception of the centrality of crime in American life has redefined the powers of government, the role of families and schools, and the place of the individual in society. This disturbing and provocative treatise should command the attention of scholars, opinion leaders, and policymakers who aspire to create a more tolerant and open future for this country."--Jeremy Travis, President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

"For historians, this book will one day be a valuable primary source."-- Law and History Review

"Distinguished legal scholar Jonathan Simon here challenges us to confront the consequences for liberal democracy of the move in the U.S. towards the exercise of ever more executive authority--from the presidency and the institutions of state through schools and families. Governing through Crime, argues Simon with unrelenting cogency, is a response to risk and fear spun out of control, a response that erodes social trust and, with it, the very scaffolding of a 'free' society. An invaluable addition to the literature in critical criminology, this is a volume that ought to be read by anyone who seeks to understand the present and future of governance in the USA--and elsewhere."--John Comaroff, Harold H. Swift Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago

Package Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.0 inches

Languages: English


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