Institutional Scholarship

The Long History Of Johnson’s Great Society: The Roots of Mass Incarceration In 1960s Poverty Reform

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dc.contributor.advisor Gerstein, Linda Hamilton, Evan 2017-09-01T13:42:31Z 2017-09-01T13:42:31Z 2017
dc.description.abstract This thesis is concerned with crime and poverty during the second half of the 20th century in the United States. Particularly, it concerns the process through which young, poor, urban, racial minorities became the nexus of criminality within public and political discourses around crime, and how this discourse created the conditions of possibility for the beginning of the mass incarceration movement during Nixon’s Presidency. I examine the criminological discourse during Lyndon Johnson’s Presidency with an eye towards the changing problematic of crime. To do so, I first study the emergence of the urban slum in post-war America, before studying the contemporary understanding of crime, both academically and within the public sphere. I argue that Johnson’s Great Society did not change the structural economic inequalities which contributed to rising levels of urban crime. Despite his administration’s focus on economic and racial inequality, his policies were marred by Patrick Moynihan’s culture of poverty theory, which understood both poverty and criminality as the result of individual pathology rather than structural inequality. I then study Johnson’s Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, and their treatise: The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society. The work summarized Johnson’s administrations understanding of crime, and argued that warring against poverty and discrimination constituted warring on crime. In attempting to implement the Commission’s recommendations during his final year in office Johnson established the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration. This agency was ultimately greatly expanded under Nixon and became the locus of a punitive expansion of the American criminal justice system. I argue that the era of mass incarceration had its roots in the criminological discourse of Johnson’s liberal 1960s.
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Department of History
dc.language.iso en_US en
dc.title The Long History Of Johnson’s Great Society: The Roots of Mass Incarceration In 1960s Poverty Reform
dc.type Thesis en
dc.rights.access Open Access

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