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

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

Paperback 344 Pages / Published: 07/05/2009
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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.

Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
ISBN: 9780195386011
Number of pages: 344
Weight: 490 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 24 mm


"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

"Jonathan Simon has pioneered a new approach to the study of the politics of crime control, and this book should confirm his place as one of the outstanding criminologists of his generation. Governing through Crime, is a major contribution and deserves to make an impact throughout the social and political sciences."--Nikolas Rose, Martin White Professor, London School of Economics and Political Science

"This is an impressive work. The book's great strength is its integration of a wide range of research on political science, law, and sociology, with journalistic accounts of current and recent politics. Topics from mass imprisonment, school "zero tolerance" policies, and the shortcomings of the Supreme Court in achieving the goals of Brown v. Board of Education have all been written about extensively. But I know of no other work that so effectively uncovers ways that these issues are connected to a changing relationship between citizens and their government."--The Law and Politics Book Review

"What makes Simon's work stand out is his treatment of how the government's configuration of the crime problem, with its strong emphasis on 'personal responsibility and will over social context' (p.25) and its penchant for punishment of individuals, has penetrated other institutional spheres of American life, notably work, school, and family life... His book stands out as the most important and most readable treatment to date on the overreach of crime and our emergence, in part, as a society gripped by the language of crime and the technologies of criminal justice."--Political Science Quarterly

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