Castles of Our Conscience


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Social Control and the American State, 1800-1985

By William G. Staples
Rutgers University Press

Castles of Our Conscience presents a new and distinctive analysis of the role of the modern state in the shaping of policies of social control. William G. Staples provides a theoretical framework for understanding the mechanisms of state policy-making and capacity. This framework supports an interpretation of the changing nature of institutions of social control in the United States, including prisons, poorhouses, and asylums, from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the present day.

A distinctive feature of the author’s approach is his critique of existing theories of the state as well as recent revisionist writing on social control. Both, he argues, have tended to either reduce the state to an instrument of class power or treat it in too “structuralist” a fashion. Developing a sophisticated account of the relationship between the state and civil society, Staples provides a history of social control policies in the United States that balances analytical concerns with historical narrative.

Additional information

Weight 15.2 oz
Dimensions 9.25 × 6.25 × 0.75 in


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