America Is the Prison: Arts and Politics in Prison in the 1970s

By Lee Bernstein | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
WE SHALL HAVE ORDER

THE CULTURAL POLITICS OF LAW AND ORDER

During the 1968 presidential campaign, Richard Nixon made Lyndon Johnson’s attorney general, Ramsey Clark, a target of his “law-andorder” campaign strategy. In accepting the GOP nomination at his party’s national convention in Miami, Nixon exhorted that whomever he nominated for attorney general would “open a new front against the filth peddlers and the narcotics peddlers who are corrupting the lives of the children of this country.”1 Once in the White House, Richard Nixon made the law-and-order rhetoric of his campaign a cornerstone of his first term, naming his campaign manager, John Mitchell, to the post formerly held by Clark. Mitchell immediately distanced himself from his predecessor. “There’s a difference,” he told the New York Times, “between my philosophy and Ramsey Clark’s. I think this is an institution for law enforcement, not social improvement.”2

The political ideology underlying this difference between “law enforcement” and “social improvement” reflects perhaps the most important transformation of the U.S. criminal justice system in its long history. This transition led to the sharp rise in repressive policing, high rates of incarceration, and the end of postwar liberalism.3 As a political and social flashpoint, “law and order” brought together conservative contempt for government programs and professional experts while drawing on growing public concern about urban uprisings, radical protest, and street crime. The Johnson administration—and later Hubert Humphrey’s failed presidential campaign—could not develop a coherent and convincing liberal response to the growth in the fear of crime.4 Law-and-order politics, along with the limits of Johnson’s Great Society and the failures in Vietnam, helps explain the decline of liberalism as a potent political force on the national stage.5

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America Is the Prison: Arts and Politics in Prison in the 1970s
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter One - We Shall Have Order 19
  • Chapter Two - The Age of Jackson 51
  • Chapter Three - What Works? 75
  • Chapter Four - We Took the Weight 99
  • Chapter Five - Cell Block Theater 129
  • Chapter Six - Radical Chic 151
  • Conclusion 173
  • Notes 185
  • Index 215
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