Punishment and InclusionRace, Membership, and the Limits of American Liberalism

Punishment and InclusionRace, Membership, and the Limits of American Liberalism

Andrew Dilts

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780823262410

Publisher: Fordham University Press

Abstract

Punishment and Inclusion: Race, Membership, and the Limits of American Liberalism, gives a theoretical and historical account of the pernicious practice of felon disenfranchisement, drawing widely on early modern political philosophy, continental and post-colonial political thought, critical race theory, feminist philosophy, disability theory, critical legal studies, and archival research into 19th and 20th state constitutional conventions. It demonstrates that the history of felon disenfranchisement, rooted in post-slavery restrictions on suffrage and the contemporaneous emergence of the modern “American” penal system, shows the deep connections between two political institutions often thought to be separate: punishment and citizenship. It reveals the work of membership done by the criminal punishment system, and at the same time, the work of punishment done by the electoral franchise. Felon disenfranchisement is shown to be a symptomatic marker of the deep tension and interdependence that persists in democratic politics between who is considered a member of the polity and how that polity punishes persons who violate its laws. While these connections are seldom deployed openly in current debates about suffrage or criminal justice, the book shows how white supremacy, a perniciously quiet yet deeply violent political system, continues to operate through contemporary regimes of punishment and governance.