Making the state pay: Violence and the politicization of crime in comparative perspective

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


This chapter argues that the literature on the politics of punishment generally, and on US exceptionalism specifically, suffers from insufficient attention to serious violence. It complicates conventional assumptions about democratic politics, mass publics, and crime. Drawing on three cases-the United Kingdom, the United States, and the state of Pennsylvania-this chapter illustrates that rates of violence matter for political attention to crime. It also shows that the politicization of crime does not always lead to a singular focus on punishment and that this politicization in the United States is shaped by both high rates of violence and distinctive institutional dynamics that decouple crime from related social and economic insecurities. The consequence is an (exceptional) political process in the United States that makes it difficult for the polity to make the state pay for high rates of violence and the criminogenic conditions that give rise to them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAmerican Exceptionalism in Crime and Punishment
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages34
ISBN (Electronic)9780190203559
ISBN (Print)9780190203542
StatePublished - Dec 21 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


  • Criminogenic condition
  • Institutional dynamics
  • Pennsylvania
  • Political attention to crime
  • Politicization of crime
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Violence


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