Forging a Punishing State: The Punitive Turn in American Social and Criminal Policy, 1968-1980


Mellon/ACLS Recent Doctoral Recipients Fellowships


For residence at the Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University


This project examines two intertwined recent phenomena: welfare state retrenchment and burgeoning carceral institutions. Through research on seminal struggles over welfare, drug, death penalty, and criminal sentencing policy, it chronicles a profound shift during the 1970s where programs that championed punishment, expulsion, and retribution supplanted policies that stressed rehabilitation and social reintegration. It explores legislators’ motivations for these policies, their fervent public support, and the constrained agency of prisoners, welfare recipients, and drug offenders. These legislative battles served a productive cultural role in rationalizing new economic conditions, demarcating membership in the polity, and redefining state legitimacy and responsibility.