Crime and Punishment in the US: Political Systems and Technology Regime Change

32 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2019 Last revised: 16 Dec 2019

See all articles by Nicola Lacey

Nicola Lacey

London School of Economics - Law Department

David Soskice

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government

Date Written: November 24, 2019

Abstract

One of the most extraordinary social science phenomena of the postwar period has been the rise in violent crime in large American cities from the 1970s to the mid 1990s and the consequent rise in incarceration; and then its subsequent dramatic decline in most of those cities and the correspondingly decisive decline in the increase in imprisonment. An echo of these ‘waves’ occurred in almost all advanced economies; but their amplitude in the US case is quite exceptional. We seek to explain: why the waves, and why the exceptional American amplitude? Comparative political economy has had little to say in recent decades about American exceptionalism in general and about American crime and punishment in particular. We take the UK as comparator, with a common liberal market economy framework, a non-consensus based political system and a broadly similar welfare state. The American exceptionalism in crime and punishment is generated institutionally by the exceptional local democratic autonomy over key relevant policy areas – education, zoning and law and order; and hence, we argue, the domination of the preferences of ‘homevoters’. We see the waves as reflecting the massive changes in technology regime: the postwar stable Fordist system through the 1960s; its collapse especially felt in the large cities through the 1970s and 1980s; and the knowledge economy from the early 1990s on.

Keywords: crime, punishment, United States, political systems, technology regimes

Suggested Citation

Lacey, Nicola and Soskice, David, Crime and Punishment in the US: Political Systems and Technology Regime Change (November 24, 2019). LSE Legal Studies Working Paper No. 16/2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3492701 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3492701

Nicola Lacey (Contact Author)

London School of Economics - Law Department ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

David Soskice

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government ( email )

Northampton NN7 1NE
United Kingdom

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
59
Abstract Views
372
rank
398,715
PlumX Metrics