The Perils of Federalism

The Perils of Federalism : Race, Poverty, and the Politics of Crime Control

3.28 (7 ratings by Goodreads)
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In the past dozen years, a number of American cities plagued by gun violence have tried to enact local laws to stem gun-related crime. Yet policymakers at the state and federal levels have very frequently stymied their efforts. This is not an atypical phenomenon. In fact, for a whole range of pressing social problems, state and federal policymakers ignore the demands of local communities that suffer from such ills the most. Lisa L. Miller asks, how does America's multi-tiered political system shape crime policy in ways that empower the higher levels of government yet demobilize and disempower local communities? After all, crime has a disproportionate impact on poor and minority communities, which typically connect crime and violence to broader social and economic inequities at the local level. As The Perils of Federalism powerfully demonstrates, though, the real control to set policy lies with the state and federal governments, and at these levels single-issue advocates-gun rights groups as well as prison, prosecutorial and law enforcement agencies-are able to shape policy over the heads of the people most affected by the issue. There is a tragic irony in this.
The conventional wisdom that emerged from the Civil Rights era was that the higher levels of government-and the federal level in particular-best served the disadvantaged, while localities were most likely to ignore the social problems resulting from racial and economic inequality. Crime policy, Miller argues, teaches us an opposite lesson: as policy control migrates to higher levels, the priorities of low-income minority communities are ignored, the realities of racial and economic inequality are marginalized, and citizens lose their voices. Taking readers from the streets of Philadelphia to the halls of Congress, she details how and why our system operates in the way that it does. Ultimately, the book not only challenges what we think about the advantages of relying of federal power for sensible and fair solutions to longstanding social problems. It also highlights the deep disconnect between the structure of the American political system and the ideals of democratic accountability.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 264 pages
  • 154.94 x 236.22 x 25.4mm | 498.95g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 8 black and white line illustrations
  • 0195331680
  • 9780195331684

Table of contents

Abbreviations of Group Names ; 1. Interests, Venues and Group Participation ; 2. A Political History of Crime on the Congressional Agenda ; 3. Contemporary Crime Politics in Congress ; 4. Interest Groups and Crime Politics at the State Level ; 5. Crime, Law, and Group Politics in Two Urban Locales ; 6. Citizenship Through Participation ; 7. Democratic Accountability and Social Control ; Appendix 1: Congressional Hearings Data ; Appendix 2: Pennsylvania Legislative Hearings and Interview Data ; Appendix 3: Philadelphia and Pittsburg Legislative Hearings and Interview Data ; Notes ; Works Cited ; Index
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Review quote

This is a breakthrough book that for the first time brings structure of American federalism into the center of the analysis of America's punitive turn and the politics of crime control. Miller has produced compelling evidence that our political institutions, rather than our social peculiarities, provide the most significant explanation for our unprecedented degree of punitiveness. * Jonathan Simon, author of Governing through Crime *
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About Lisa L. Miller

Lisa L. Miller is Associate Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University.
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Rating details

7 ratings
3.28 out of 5 stars
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4 57% (4)
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1 29% (2)
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