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American exceptionalism in inequality and poverty: a (tentative) historical explanation

Lacey, Nicola and Soskice, David (2019) American exceptionalism in inequality and poverty: a (tentative) historical explanation. Working Paper (32). International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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The United States is a fascinating case study in the complex links between crime, punishment and inequality, standing out as it does in terms of inequality as measured by a number of economic standards; levels of serious violent crime; and rates of imprisonment, penal surveillance and post-conviction disqualifications. In this chapter, we build on previous work arguing that the exceptional rise in violent crime and punishment in the US from the mid 1970s to the early 1990s could be explained by the interaction of four political and economic variables: ‘technological regime change’; ‘varieties of capitalism’ and ‘varieties of welfare state’; types of ‘political system’; and – critically and specifically – the US as a radical outlier in the degree of local democracy. Here we ask three further questions implied by our previous work. First, why did such distinctive patterns of local democracy arise in America? And to what extent is this political structure tied up with the history and politics of race? Second, what did the distinctive historical development of the US political economy in the 19th century imply for the structure of its criminal justice institutions? And third, why did the burden of crime and punishment come to fall so disproportionately on African Americans?

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2019 The Authors
Divisions: Law
International Inequalities Institute
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2019 16:12
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2021 01:23

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