It's All the Rage: Crime and Culture

It's All the Rage: Crime and Culture

by Wendy Kaminer
     
 

From our decrying of ”the abuse excuse” to our cheers of Free the Juice,” our reactions to violent crime fluctuate wildly. Expanding on her well-known ideas about self-help and the American psyche, Wendy Kaminer shows us how pop-psychology and religious fervor vie with law and rationality in our courtrooms and in our minds. She doesn’t offer

Overview

From our decrying of ”the abuse excuse” to our cheers of Free the Juice,” our reactions to violent crime fluctuate wildly. Expanding on her well-known ideas about self-help and the American psyche, Wendy Kaminer shows us how pop-psychology and religious fervor vie with law and rationality in our courtrooms and in our minds. She doesn’t offer up any easy solutions; rather, with her trademark epigrammatic brilliance, she gives us an alarming picture of the emotional needs and cultural forces behind our righteous proclamations about crime and punishment.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Kaminer segues from I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional to assess with insight and irony contradictions in our criminal justice system. "[W]e tend to alternate between judging too harshly... and not judging at all," she concludes, finding that "virtue talk" on character reform is applied mainly to issues like crime and welfare but not to other policy areas. We have trouble punishing "guilty victims" like Lorena Bobbitt, who in 1994 was exonerated for mutilating her abusive husband, and Kaminer wisely suggests that sympathy be left for sentencing. She finds a telling contradiction in our "popular obsession with child abuse" and our endorsement of the caning administered by Singapore in 1994 to an American teenager convicted of vandalism. She argues that "victims' rights" can overwhelm public justice. A large chunk of the book concerns the death penalty; Kaminer traces the evolution of the reasons people support the death penalty from deterrence to retribution; she scores the judicial system's acceptance of unfair prosecutions; and she suggests that, until more people have direct experience with capital trials, the system will stand. This book, however, is hardly comprehensive: Kaminer could have better explored such issues as the battered-wife defense, as well as international arguments about crime and culture.
Booknews
A contributing editor to the The Atlantic Monthly finds that American discussions of criminal justice and the death penalty-- including notions of accountability, victimhood, moral agency, and self-control--are driven by a volatile mix of fear, fury, and wishful thinking about simple solutions, and that rational knowledge has become irrelevant. Kaminer doesn't offer answers, but she asks good questions that challenge conventional wisdom on both the political right and the left. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Ray Olson
Kaminer--a social critic uniquely gifted for pointing out flawed ideas on all sides of controversies--here considers one of the great divides between liberals and conservatives, what to do about violent crime. She spends two thirds of the book on capital punishment, the rest on federal crime-fighting and the national debate over values. She immediately announces her opposition to the death penalty but critiques it on procedural and psychological rather than moral grounds: it's expensive, time-consuming, and liable to all manner of errors; and the passion for it is often hypocritical, for those who brook no mitigating circumstances in the cases of capital offenders very often, she says, want their own noncriminal trespasses not just forgiven but--as witness the success of the recovery and self-esteem movement--not even considered trespasses. Fear has made us mean-spirited with a vengeance, Kaminer implies, as evidenced also by "three strikes and you're out" and mandatory sentencing laws. No one concerned about crime policy should miss Kaminer's trenchant analysis, even though it ignores religious objections to capital punishment.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780201622744
Publisher:
Addison-Wesley
Publication date:
03/15/1995
Pages:
292
Product dimensions:
5.71(w) x 8.56(h) x 1.12(d)

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