Bibliographic Details

On self government: Democratic politics and law in prisons, asylums, and boarding schools / Berk, Christopher D.

Author / Creator Berk, Christopher D., author.
Imprint 2016.
Ann Arbor : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, 2016
Description 1 electronic resource (197 pages)
Language English
Format Dissertations, E-Resource
Local Note School code: 0330
URL for this record http://pi.lib.uchicago.edu/1001/cat/bib/11674620
Other authors / contributors University of Chicago. degree granting institution.
ISBN 9781369438321
Notes Advisors: Bernard Harcourt Committee members: Andrew Abbott; Cathy Cohen; Robert Gooding-Williams.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 78-06(E), Section: A.
English
Summary The ideal of the 'self-governing citizen' -- both what it brings into relief and what it casts in shadow -- shapes our vision of democratic life, generally without our awareness. What's brought into relief by this ideal is a prescriptive project, a vision of political freedom rooted in the intuition that an individual or collectivity that is not self-governing is in some way subjugated, subordinated, or shackled by another. What's cast in shadow, to borrow from Robert Dahl, is a series of "half-hidden premises, unexplored assumptions, and unacknowledged antecedents" that form a "vaguely perceived shadow theory that forever dogs the footsteps of explicit, public theories of democracy." This dissertation is about that shadow theory. About how childhood, madness, and criminality complicate claims about the nature of subjectivity and human capabilities in theories of democracy. And about how custody and democracy can inform, deform, and transform one another. In the first two chapters I suggest children, prisoners, and the cognitively disabled present a persistent boundary problem for theorists of aggregative and deliberative democracy. For these schools of thought, custodial populations lack sociality, lack rationality, or lack maturity -- all of which are conceptually necessary to decide, deliberate, or participate in the polity. Wrapped in this 'exclusion thesis' is an assumption that the boundaries of competence can be determined prior to political contest. I demonstrate that this assumption neither stands to reason, nor produces a normatively appealing model of democratic politics. Particular institutional forms, such as the prison, mediate the relationship between the democratic ideal of self-government and competence. Civic competence is shaped by institutional contexts that are, in turn, revisable. The three chapters that follow are based on extensive field work and archival research. Chapter 6 concludes the dissertation. In this short chapter I review key insights from my case studies and reflect on the normative implications of my analysis. The final pages ask how one might imagine custodial arrangements that advance the normative project of democratic self-government without repeating the errors of the exclusion thesis, without succumbing to a "false belief in necessity." As a start, I argue, we could begin to think about responsive custodial institutions. At the highest level of generality, I define a responsive custodial institution as one that builds civic capacity, treats limits to participation as provisional, and experiments with mechanisms for soliciting voice. In turning to the organizational politics of schools, asylums, and prisons, I do not mean to judge one institutional form as reactionary (the Patients' Federation at St. Elizabeths Hospital, for example, that I explore in chapter 4), or another as revolutionary (the organization of the NPRA during the Walpole prison rebellion, sketched in chapter 3). Rather, my central point is that tacit acceptance of the place of custody in democratic societies forecloses an inquiry into the organizational potentials we subsequently recognize as reactionary or revolutionary. Innovations within custodial institutions, as I detail in my case studies, are key places where the possibilities of democracy are reimagined; places where new democratic subjectivities are forged; and places where law is made and remade to anticipate both forms of democracy and forms of authoritarianism to come. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.).