War on Crime: Bandits, G-Men, and the Politics of Mass Culture

War on Crime: Bandits, G-Men, and the Politics of Mass Culture

War on Crime: Bandits, G-Men, and the Politics of Mass Culture

War on Crime: Bandits, G-Men, and the Politics of Mass Culture

Synopsis

"War on Crime revises the history of the New Deal transformation and suggests a new model for political historyone which recognizes that cultural phenomena and the political realm produce, between them, an idea of "the state." The war on crime was fought with guns and pens, movies and legislation, radio and government hearings. All of these methods illuminate this period of state transformation and perceptions of that emergent state, in the years of the first New Deal. The study of the creation of G-men and gangsters as cultural heroes in this period not only explores the Depression-era obsession with crime and celebrity, but it also lends insight on how citizens understood a nation undergoing large political and social changes." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

On June 17, 1933, in the Kansas City morning heat, four unknown gunmen attacked a party of three federal agents and two local officers who were transporting safe-blowing artist Frank "Jelly" Nash from Union Station to police headquarters. After the smoke cleared, two federal agents lay dying, and Nash, who had been chained to one of them, had also been killed--whether the bandits were trying to liberate Nash or "put him on the spot" was never determined. The fallen government men were special agents of the Department of Justice's Bureau of Investigation; their deaths symbolized a cultural and political crisis that catapulted Director J. Edgar Hoover into a three-year campaign against modern American bandits like John Dillinger, "Ma" Barker, and Alvin Karpis.

The subsequent "war on crime" demonstrated that, despite the failure of three Republican administrations to enforce national Prohibition, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Democratic New Deal state could field a sophisticated and effective national police force. Although social welfare legislation and economic reform heightened dramatically the role of the federal government in citizens' daily lives, the omnibus crime bill, which was passed by Congress in May and June 1934, epitomized another type of legislation that produced a centralized state apparatus after World War I. The culmination of Hoover's eight-year effort to reform the bureau, it also positioned New Dealers as leaders of a national police professionalization movement.

This study looks beyond a political history literature that has explored a politics of social welfare and economic intervention that culminated in the New Deal, and refocuses on policing and crime control as a critical locus of twentieth- century . . .

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