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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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The Death Penalty

The Death Penalty

Between Law, Sovereignty, and Biopolitics

(p.72) 3 The Death Penalty
America's Death Penalty

Michael Meranze

NYU Press

This chapter examines the question of capital punishment in relation to sovereignty and biopolitics. More specifically, it discusses current “political and legal rationalities” that constitute the field within which the death penalty becomes an option. It views capital punishment not as a unique and isolated practice, but as part of a more elaborate configuration of forces and factors. Drawing on the work of Michel Foucault, particularly his notion of the biopolitical, it analyzes the contemporary state of the question of death penalty. Within the context of this biopolitical, it explores the new goals and principles of government, the new ambitions and mode of regulation, which developed in the modern period. It also considers the shift in meaning of sovereignty, from the monarch's right the kill to the state's protection of life. Finally, it looks at the Supreme Court as a site of struggle between the competing claims of biopolitical and legal rationalities.

Keywords:   capital punishment, sovereignty, biopolitics, death penalty, Michel Foucault, government, regulation, Supreme Court, political rationality, legal rationality

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