Not only throwing crucial light on matters involving race and social class, this book also identifies and examines the key social forces shaping penal practice in the US - politics, economics, morality, and technology. By attending closely to historical and theoretical development, the narrative takes into account both instrumental (goal-oriented) and expressive (cultural) explanations to sharpen our understanding of punishment and the growing reliance on incarceration.
Covering five main areas of inquiry - penal context, penal populations, penal violence, penal process, and penal state - this book is essential reading for both undergraduate and graduate students interested in undertaking a critical analysis of penology.
Michael Welch is a Professor in the Criminal Justice program at Rutgers University, US. His research interests include punishment, human rights, and social control, and his articles have appeared in journals such as Punishment and Society, Social Justice and Critical Criminology. He has also authored numerous books, including Crimes of Power & States of Impunity: The U.S. Response to Terror (Rutgers University Press, 2009), Ironies of Imprisonment (Sage, 2005), and Punishment in America (Sage, 1999).
In exploring social control of political protest in the United States, this volume embarks on an in-depth examination of flag desecration and efforts to criminalize that particular form of dissent. It seeks to examine the sociological process facilitating the criminalization of protest by attending to moral enterprises, civil religion, authoritarian aesthetics, and the ironic nature of social control. Flag burning is a potent symbolic gesture conveying sharp criticism of the state. Many American believe that flag desecration emerged initially during the Vietnam War era, but the history of this caustic form of protest can be traced to the period leading up to the Civil War.
The act of torching Old Glory differs qualitatively from other forms of defiance. With this distinction in mind, attempts to penalize and deter flag desecration transcend the utilitarian function of regulating public protest. Despite popular claims that American society is built on genuine consensus, the flag-burning controversy brings to light the contentious nature of U.S. democracy and its ambivalence toward free expression. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is often viewed as one of the more unpopular additions to the Bill of Rights. One constitutional commentator underscores this point by noting that the First Amendment gives citizens the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
Flag Burning is a well-written, informative volume suitable for courses in deviance, social problems, social movements, mass communication, criminology, and political science, as well as in sociology of law and legal studies.