Punishment and Social Theory

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In this course, students examine the rise of the penal state, tracing its roots from the birth of the prison to the ascendance of mass imprisonment. The course is organized around five lines of inquiry--(1) How is the power to punish derived? (2) In what ways has the role of punishment in society been conceived? (3) What do the practices of punishment produce? (4) What do they tell us about oursevles? (5) Are there alternatives? Taking up these questions, students will outline the major theories of punishment advanced by classical political philosophers and penologists, and trace the trajectory of our modern impulse to punish, and interrogate the shifting terrain of penal practice in the United States, attending to reformers, scholars, activists, and abolitionists have sought to bring about change in criminal justice policy and practice. We will examine the political economy, culture, and consequences of punishment through readings on the carceral state and conclude by raising new questions about punishment and its alternatives in an age of mass incarceration.

Courses are subject to change at any time. Please check mySSA for the quarters, days, and times that courses will be held, as well as room numbers.