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America's Death PenaltyBetween Past and Present$
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David Garland, Randall McGowen, and Michael Meranze

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780814732663

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814732663.001.0001

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Getting the Question Right? Ways of Thinking about the Death Penalty

(p.1) 1 Introduction
America's Death Penalty

Randall Mcgowen

NYU Press

This book examines the historical and theoretical assumptions that have underpinned contemporary discussions of capital punishment in the United States. Drawing on insights from historians, sociologists, legal scholars, and litigators, it analyzes long-term trends but also the shifting functions that shape death penalty's changing forms and the contingent variables that influence its development. It also discusses the persistence of death penalty as an institution, its occurrence in particular places, and the politics—especially biopolitics—to which it gives rise. Finally, it considers international trends that present not only a mix of different approaches to the death penalty but also expose the shifting political currents that so often surround the question today. In particular, it considers the cultural dynamics that sustain or undermine support for capital punishment in particular societies as well as the importance of history in understanding various issues relating to the death penalty.

Keywords:   capital punishment, United States, death penalty, politics, biopolitics, cultural dynamics, history

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