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The way a society punishes demonstrates its commitment to standards of judgment and justice, its distinctive views of blame and responsibility, and its particular way of responding to evil. Punishment in Popular Culture examines the cultural presuppositions that undergird America’s distinctive approach to punishment and analyzes punishment as a set of images, a spectacle of condemnation. It recognizes that the semiotics of punishment is all around us, not just in the architecture of the prison, or the speech made by a judge as she sends someone to the penal colony, but in both “high” and “popular” culture iconography, in novels, television, and film. This book brings together distinguished scholars of punishment and experts in media studies in an unusual juxtaposition of disciplines and perspectives. Americans continue to lock up more people for longer periods of time than most other nations, to use the death penalty, and to racialize punishment in remarkable ways. How are these facts of American penal life reflected in the portraits of punishment that Americans regularly encounter on television and in film? What are the conventions of genre which help to familiarize those portraits and connect them to broader political and cultural themes? Do television and film help to undermine punishment's moral claims? And how are developments in the boarder political economy reflected in the ways punishment appears in mass culture? Finally, how are images of punishment received by their audiences? It is to these questions that Punishment in Popular Culture is addressed.
Gruesome Spectacles tells the sobering history of botched, mismanaged, and painful executions in the U.S. from 1890 to the present. Since the book's initial publication in 2014, the cruel and unusual executions of a number of people on death row, including Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma and Joseph Wood in Arizona, have made headlines and renewed vigorous debate surrounding the death penalty in America. Austin Sarat's book instantly became an essential resource for citizens, scholars, and lawmakers interested in capital punishment—even the Supreme Court, which cited the book in its recent opinion, Glossip v. Gross.

Now in paperback, the book includes a new preface outlining the latest twists and turns in the death penalty debate, including the recent galvanization of citizens and leaders alike as recent botched executions have unfolded in the press. Sarat argues that unlike in the past, today's botched executions seem less like inexplicable mishaps and more like the latest symptoms of a death penalty machinery in disarray. Gruesome Spectacles traces the historical evolution of methods of execution, from hanging or firing squad to electrocution to gas and lethal injection. Even though each of these technologies was developed to "perfect" state killing by decreasing the chance of a cruel death, an estimated three percent of all American executions went awry in one way or another. Sarat recounts the gripping and truly gruesome stories of some of these deaths—stories obscured by history and to some extent, the popular press.

Over 7,000 people have been legally executed in the United States this century, and over 3,000 men and women now sit on death rows across the country awaiting the same fate. Since the Supreme Court temporarily halted capital punishment in 1972, the death penalty has returned with a vengeance. Today there appears to be a widespread public consensus in favor of capital punishment and considerable political momentum to ensure that those sentenced to death are actually executed. Yet the death penalty remains troubling and controversial for many people. The Killing State: Capital Punishment in Law, Politics, and Culture explores what it means when the state kills and what it means for citizens to live in a killing state, helping us understand why America clings tenaciously to a punishment that has been abandoned by every other industrialized democracy. Edited by a leading figure in socio-legal studies, this book brings together the work of ten scholars, including recognized experts on the death penalty and noted scholars writing about it for the first time. Focused more on theory than on advocacy, these bracing essays open up new questions for scholars and citizens: What is the relationship of the death penalty to the maintenance of political sovereignty? In what ways does the death penalty resemble and enable other forms of law's violence? How is capital punishment portrayed in popular culture? How does capital punishment express the new politics of crime, organize positions in the "culture war," and affect the structure of American values? This book is a timely examination of a vitally important topic: the impact of state killing on our law, our politics, and our cultural life.
Why do some lawyers devote themselves to a given social movement or political cause? How are such deeds of individual commitment and personal belief justly executed, given the ideals of disinterested professional service to which lawyers are (in theory, at least) supposed to adhere? What can we learn from such lawyers about the relationship between law and politics? Cause Lawyering is a wise and varied collection of responses to these questions, featuring a number of distinguished legal scholars concerned with anti-poverty lawyers, lawyers who work against capital punishment, immigration lawyers, and other lawyers working to end oppression. Editors Austin Sarat and Stuart Scheingold have assembled here a valuable cross-national portrait of lawyers compelled to sacrifice financial gain so as to use their legal skills in the promotion of a more just society. These telling and important essays fully explore the relationship between cause lawyering and the organized legal professions of many different countries--the US, England, South Africa, Israel, Cuba, and so forth. They describe the utility of law as a resource in political struggles and, conversely, highlight the constraints under which lawyers necessarily operate when they turn to politics. Some provide broad theoretical overviews; others present rich case studies. Advancing a fundamental argument about the very nature of the legal profession, this book explains the strategies that cause lawyers deploy, as well as the challenges they face in trying to be legally astute and effective while remaining politically devoted and aware. Although it is a controversial way of practicing law, cause lawyering, as explicated in the essays in this volume, is indeed indispensable to the legitimization of professional authority.
From 9/11 to Katrina, from Darfur to the Minnesota bridge collapse, ours is an "age of catastrophe." In this era, catastrophic events seem to have a revelatory quality: they offer powerful reminders of the fragility of our social and institutional architectures, making painfully evident vulnerabilities in our social organization that were otherwise invisible. By disrupting the operation of fundamental mechanisms and infrastructures of the social order, they lay bare the conditions that make our sense of normalcy possible.

At a time when societies are directing an unprecedented level of resources and ingenuity to anticipating and mitigating catastrophic events, Catastrophe: Law, Politics, and the Humanitarian Impulse examines the tests that catastrophe poses to politics and humanitarianism as well as to the law. It explores legal, political, and humanitarian responses during times when the sudden, discontinuous, and disastrous event has become, perhaps paradoxically, a structural component of our political imagination. It asks whether law, politics, and humanitarianism live up to the tests posed by disaster, and the role all of them play in creating a more resilient world.

Taken together the essays in this book ask us to see through and beyond the myths that surround catastrophe and our responses to it. They ask us to rethink our understanding of catastrophe and to imagine new legal, political, and humanitarian responses.

In addition to the editors, contributors include Thomas Birkland, Michele Landis Dauber, Kim Fortun, Edward Rackley, Peter Redfield, Peter H. Schuck, and Susan Sterett.

In bringing together accomplished and thoughtful scholars of different disciplines, with a command of literature ranging from the legal to the literary, and in relating the works to the central arguments of the late Professor Robert Cover, Sarat and Kearns have created a first-rate up-to-date exposition of this important and complicated issue, namely, how to understand better the violence implicit and explicit in law.--Legal Studies Forum The relationship between law and violence is made familiar to us in vivid pictures of police beating suspects, the large and growing prison population, and the tenacious attachment to capital punishment in the United States. Yet the link between law and violence and the ways that law manages to impose pain and death while remaining aloof and unstained are an unexplored mystery. Each essay in this volume considers the question of how violence done by and in the name of the law differs from illegal or extralegal violence--or, indeed, if they differ at all. Each author draws on a distinctive disciplinary tradition-- literature, history, anthropology, philosophy, political science, or law. Yet each reminds us that law, constituted in response to the metaphorical violence of the state of nature, is itself a doer of literal violence. Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science and Chair of the Program in Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, Amherst College. Thomas R. Kearns is William H. Hastie Professor of Philosophy, Amherst College.
We are witnessing in the last decade of the twentieth century more frequent demands by racial and ethnic groups for recognition of their distinctive histories and traditions as well as opportunities to develop and maintain the institutional infrastructure necessary to preserve them. Where it once seemed that the ideal of American citizenship was found in the promise of integration and in the hope that none of us would be singled out for, let alone judged by, our race or ethnicity, today integration, often taken to mean a denial of identity and history for subordinated racial, gender, sexual or ethnic groups, is often rejected, and new terms of inclusion are sought. The essays in Cultural Pluralism, Identity Politics, and the Law ask us to examine carefully the relation of cultural struggle and material transformation and law's role in both. Written by scholars from a variety of disciplines and theoretical inclinations, the essays challenge orthodox understandings of the nature of identity politics and contemporary debates about separatism and assimilation. They ask us to think seriously about the ways law has been, and is, implicated in these debates. The essays address questions such as the challenges posed for notions of legal justice and procedural fairness by cultural pluralism and identity politics, the role played by law in structuring the terms on which recognition, accommodation, and inclusion are accorded to groups in the United States, and how much of accepted notions of law are defined by an ideal of integration and assimilation. The contributors are Elizabeth Clark, Lauren Berlant, Dorothy Roberts, Georg Lipsitz, and Kenneth Karst.
Recent controversies surrounding the war on terror and American intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought rule of law rhetoric to a fevered pitch. While President Obama has repeatedly emphasized his Administration’s commitment to transparency and the rule of law, nowhere has this resolve been so quickly and severely tested than with the issue of the possible prosecution of Bush Administration officials. While some worry that without legal consequences there will be no effective deterrence for the repetition of future transgressions of justice committed at the highest levels of government, others echo Obama’s seemingly reluctant stance on launching an investigation into allegations of criminal wrongdoing by former President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, and members of the Office of Legal Counsel. Indeed, even some of the Bush Administration’s harshest critics suggest that we should avoid such confrontations, that the price of political division is too high. Measured or partisan, scholarly or journalistic, clearly the debate about accountability for the alleged crimes of the Bush Administration will continue for some time.

Using this debate as its jumping off point, When Governments Break the Law takes an interdisciplinary approach to the legal challenges posed by the criminal wrongdoing of governments. But this book is not an indictment of the Bush Administration; rather, the contributors take distinct positions for and against the proposition, offering revealing reasons and illuminating alternatives. The contributors do not ask the substantive question of whether any Bush Administration officials, in fact, violated the law, but rather the procedural, legal, political, and cultural questions of what it would mean either to pursue criminal prosecutions or to refuse to do so. By presuming that officials could be prosecuted, these essays address whether they should.

When Governments Break the Law provides a valuable and timely commentary on what is likely to be an ongoing process of understanding the relationship between politics and the rule of law in times of crisis.

Contributors: Claire Finkelstein, Lisa Hajjar, Daniel Herwitz, Stephen Holmes, Paul Horwitz, Nasser Hussain, Austin Sarat, and Stephen I. Vladeck.

The idea of legal rights today enjoys virtually universal appeal, yet all too often the meaning and significance of rights are poorly understood. The purpose of this volume is to clarify the subject of legal rights by drawing on both historical and philosophical legal scholarship to bridge the gap between these two genres--a gap that has divorced abstract and normative treatments of rights from an understanding of their particular social and cultural contexts.
Legal Rights: Historical and Philosophical Perspectives shows that the meaning and extent of rights has been dramatically expanded in this century, though along with the widespread and flourishing popularity of rights, voices of criticism have increasingly been raised. The authors take up the question of the foundation of rights and explore the postmodern challenges to efforts to ground rights outside of history and language. Drawing rich historical analysis and careful philosophical inquiry into productive dialogue, this book explores the many facets of rights at the end of the twentieth century. In these essays, potentially abstract debates come alive as they are related to the struggles of real people attempting to cope with, and improve, their living conditions. The significance of legal rights is measured not just in terms of philosophical categories or as a collection of histories, but as they are experienced in the lives of men and women seeking to come to terms with rights in contemporary life.
Contributors are Hadley Arkes, William E. Cain, Thomas Haskell, Morton J. Horwitz, Annabel Patterson, Michael J. Perry, Pierre Schlag, and Jeremy Waldron.
Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, Amherst College. Thomas R. Kearns is William H. Hastie Professor of Philosophy, Amherst College.
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