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America Is the PrisonArts and Politics in Prison in the 1970s$
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Lee Bernstein

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780807833872

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807898321_bernstein

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We Shall Have Order: The Cultural Politics of Law and Order

We Shall Have Order: The Cultural Politics of Law and Order

(p.19) Chapter One We Shall Have Order: The Cultural Politics of Law and Order
America Is the Prison

Lee Bernstein

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter discusses the political ideology underlying the difference between “law enforcement” and “social improvement,” which reflects perhaps the most important transformation of the U.S. criminal justice system in its long history. This transition led to the sharp rise in repressive policing, high rates of incarceration, and the end of postwar liberalism. As a political and social flashpoint, “law and order” brought together conservative contempt for government programs and professional experts while drawing on growing public concern about urban uprisings, radical protest, and street crime. The Johnson administration—and later Hubert Humphrey's failed presidential campaign—could not develop a coherent and convincing liberal response to the growth in the fear of crime. Law-and-order politics, along with the limits of Johnson's Great Society and the failures in Vietnam, helps explain the decline of liberalism as a potent political force on the national stage.

Keywords:   political ideology, law enforcement, social improvement, criminal justice system, repressive policing

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