55 Plus Lecture: American Exceptionalism: Race, Crime, & Democracy

Date:  February 21, 2019
Topic:  American Exceptionalism: Race, Crime, & Democracy
Speaker:  Lisa Miller, Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University

The United States has the highest imprisonment rates in the democratized world.  What explains this?  This talk offers an explanation that is rooted in, what I refer to as, the "racialized failure of the American state," which is rooted in the profound democratic deficit produced by the political institutions of American politics.  This deficit has produced a weak social welfare state that leads to high levels of serious violence, and a muscular punitive state that uses imprisonment as a policy response to a wide range of social ills, including crime.  The talk concludes with proposals for overcoming some of these deficits and focusing political attention and debate on resolving social problems.

Professor Miller's research interests are in law and politics, racial inequality, violent crime and criminal justice, democratic accountability and social policy.  Her most recent book, The Myth of Mob Rule: Violent Crime and Democratic Politics (Oxford University Press, 2016), explores the politics of crime and punishment cross-nationally.  Her work has been published in Law and Society Review, Punishment and Society, Perspectives on PoliticsBritish Journal of Criminology, among others.  Her previous books include: The Perils of Federalism: Race, Poverty and the Politics of Crime Control (OUP, 2008) and The Politics of Community Crime Prevention (Dartmouth/Ashgate, 2001).  Miller has served as a Visiting Professor and Visiting Fellow at the University of Oxford, and as a Visiting Scholar at the Program in Law and Public Affairs at Princeton University.  She is currently working on two book projects, one on U.S.  constitutional myths, and the other on the political origins of lethal violence in the Americas.