Breaking Windows as Corrective Justice: Impure Resistance in Urban Ghettos

7 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2018

Date Written: April 24, 2018


This book review of Tommie Shelbie’s Dark Ghettos: Injustice, Dissent, and Reform (2016) asks what duties the police have towards the public that they serve and protect, and what duties the public have in return. Shelby argues that there are two sets of duties at play: basic duties of natural justice that govern our conduct no matter what; and reciprocal duties of civic justice that depend upon how we treat each other. If the state fails to treat its public with sufficient respect and solicitude, then considerations of civic justice entail that the public need not treat the state, and its laws, as creating obligations binding upon them. Instead, the public may resist state injustice in ways that may seem, to the majority at least, perverse or deviant. Nonetheless, these actions may make sense given the limited options available to individuals who live in situations of pervasive injustice: circumstances brought about by state animus or malign neglect.

Shelby’s book has, I argue, some important consequences for the way we think about policing, and in particular interactions between the police and the public in communities that are structured by the state’s overwhelming failure to ensure decent living conditions. In such communities, the public may be justified in protesting and resisting state neglect. Such protest may be radically disempowering for the police.

Suggested Citation

Miller, Eric J., Breaking Windows as Corrective Justice: Impure Resistance in Urban Ghettos (April 24, 2018). 53 Tulsa Law Review, 313 (2017), Loyola Law School, Los Angeles Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2018-13, Available at SSRN:

Eric J. Miller (Contact Author)

Loyola Law School Los Angeles ( email )

919 Albany Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015-1211
United States
213-736-1175 (Phone)


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