Flag Burning: Moral Panic and the Criminalization of Protest / Edition 1

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Overview

Responses to flag burning as a particular form of street protest tend to polarize into two camps: one holding the view that action of this sort is constitutionally protected protest; the other, that it is subversive and criminal activity. In this well-researched and richly documented volume, Welch examines the collision of these ideologies, and shows the relevance of sociological concepts to a deeper understanding of such forms of protest.

In exploring social control of political protest in the United States, this volume embarks on an in-depth examination of flag desecration and efforts to criminalize that particular form of dissent. It seeks to examine the sociological process facilitating the criminalization of protest by attending to moral enterprises, civil religion, authoritarian aesthetics, and the ironic nature of social control. Flag burning is a potent symbolic gesture conveying sharp criticism of the state. Many American believe that flag desecration emerged initially during the Vietnam War era, but the history of this caustic form of protest can be traced to the period leading up to the Civil War.

The act of torching Old Glory differs qualitatively from other forms of defiance. With this distinction in mind, attempts to penalize and deter flag desecration transcend the utilitarian function of regulating public protest. Despite popular claims that American society is built on genuine consensus, the flag-burning controversy brings to light the contentious nature of U.S. democracy and its ambivalence toward free expression. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is often viewed as one of the more unpopular additions to the Bill of Rights. One constitutional commentator underscores this point by noting that the First Amendment gives citizens the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

Flag Burning is a well-written, informative volume suitable for courses in deviance, social problems, social movements, mass communication, criminology, and political science, as well as in sociology of law and legal studies.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This book provides an account of the history of flag desecration and the efforts to criminalize it… Michael Welch’s book delivers a contribution to the sociological study of a fascinating and important social issue. Any sociologist interested in flag desecration issues has to start with Welch’s work, this book, and the author’s many related articles. The empirical sections of the study, especially the identification of the various themes and players in the confrontational battle between the First Amendment rights and the protection of fundamentally held beliefs and values, make for an interesting read.”

—Mathieu Deflem, American Journal of Sociology

“Michael Welch’s book examines the flag burning controversy, a profoundly sociological issue that has received insufficient attention from sociologists… While most of its empirical illustrations focus on responses to putative threat of flag burning in the late 1980s, the book also provides a historical survey of flag burning and flag protection efforts in the United States dating back to the Civil War.”

—Rachel L. Winwohner, Contemporary Sociology

Booknews
Examines conflicting ideologies surrounding flag burning as a form of street protest, and demonstrates the relevance of sociological concepts to a deeper understanding of such forms of protest. Material is in sections on the emergence of flag desecration and civil religion, the authoritarian aesthetic and its resistance, and moral panic over flag desecration. Can be used as a supplement in courses in deviance, social problems and movements, mass communication, criminology, and political science. Welch is Associate Professor in the Administration of Justice Program at Rutgers University. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780202306520
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/1/2000
  • Series: Social Problems and Social Issues Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 220
  • Product dimensions: 6.22 (w) x 8.94 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Welch is associate professor in the Administration of Justice Program, School of Social Work, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 23, 2009

    Liberal argument for flag burning

    Anything from Welch is garbage. He is not a researcher. He is an advocate for the liberal agenda on every criminal justice hot-button issue. He makes compelling arguments for the liberal point-of-view and nothing else. He is condescending and biased when presenting alternative views with supporting facts or statements. If you want a liberal argument for the right to burn flags, this is the book for you. If you want a balanced presentation of the history and facts on this hot-button topic, look elsewhere.

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