Criminality and the Modern: Contingency and Agency in Twentieth-Century America
The emergence of the social sciences, established in the mid to late nineteenth-century, had a substantial bearing on how researchers, academics, and eventually the general public thought about criminal behavior. Using Modernism as a lens, Stephen Brauer, examines how these disciplines shaped Americans’ understanding of criminality in the twentieth-century and how it provides a new way to think about culture, social norms, and ultimately, laws. In theory, laws act as articulations and codifications of a community’s beliefs, values, and principles. By breaking laws, criminals help us reinforce social norms by providing the opportunity to affirm what is believed to be right. By operating outside the bounds of acceptable behavior, the criminal serves as a useful figure to understand what is at stake in the culture, what the central issues of that culture might be, and what the fears and anxieties are. Criminality serves as a lens through which we can read ourselves and how the criminal operates as a cultural figure signifies the things we are negotiating in our lives and in our communities. Brauer focuses on two main concepts, central to the very concept of Modernism, to explore criminality: contingency, the idea that the individual might not be in control of their own deviance, and agency, the notion that the criminal makes a conscious choice to use crime as a means of economic success. The figure of the criminal is a powerful one and is key to exploring American twentieth-century culture. This book would be of interest to students and scholars in criminology, sociology, cultural studies, literary studies, history, and many others.
Criminology | English Language and Literature | History | Sociology
Brauer, Stephen, "Criminality and the Modern: Contingency and Agency in Twentieth-Century America" (2022). Fisher Bookshelf. 55.