Peculiar Institution: America's Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition

Front Cover
OUP/Harvard University Press, Sep 30, 2010 - Law - 432 pages
4 Reviews
For many Europeans, the persistence of America's death penalty is a stark reminder of American otherness. The practice of state killing is an archaic relic, a hollow symbol that accomplishes nothing but reflects a puritanical, punitive culture - bloodthirsty in its pursuit of retribution. In debating capital punishment, the usual rhetoric points to America's deviance from the western norm: civilized abolition and barbaric retention; 'us' and 'them'. This remarkable new study by a leading social thinker sweeps aside the familiar story and offers a compelling interpretation of the culture of American punishment. It shows that the same forces that led to the death penalty's abolition in Europe once made America a pioneer of reform. That democracy and civilization are not the enemies of capital punishment, though liberalism and humanitarianism are. Making sense of today's differences requires a better understanding of American society and its punishments than the standard rhetoric allows. Taking us deep inside the world of capital punishment, the book offers a detailed picture of a peculiar institution - its cultural meaning and symbolic force for supporters and abolitionists, its place in the landscape of American politics and attitudes to crime, its constitutional status and the legal struggles that define it. Understanding the death penalty requires that we understand how American society is put together - the legacy of racial violence, the structures of social power, and the commitment to radical, local majority rule. Shattering current stereotypes, the book forces us to rethink our understanding of the politics of death and of punishment in America and beyond.
 

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Review: Peculiar Institution: America's Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition

User Review  - Noah - Goodreads

A real bear of a book, dense and fairly academic, but also pretty thought-provoking. If you're interested in the topic, this is an important addition to the literature. Read full review

Review: Peculiar Institution: America's Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition

User Review  - Gordon - Goodreads

A must read for students taking English Honors this year. Gives some new insight into our "peculiar institution" of the death penalty. Why do we have something that strikes criminals as often as ... Read full review

Contents

The Exemplary Execution
1
1 A Peculiar Institution
9
2 The American Way of Death
39
3 Historical Modes of Capital Punishment
70
4 The Death Penaltys Decline
101
5 Processes of Transformation
127
6 State and Society in America
151
7 Capital Punishment in America
183
9 New Political and Cultural Meanings
231
10 Reinventing the Death Penalty
256
11 Death and Its Uses
285
Discourse and Death
308
Notes
315
Acknowledgments
395
Index
399
Copyright

8 An American Abolition
206

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About the author (2010)

David Garland is Professor of Sociology at New York University. He is one of the leading sociologists writing on punishment and crime control, his major works including Punishment and Modern Society, and The Culture of Control.

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