Jacobin Reading Group February: Policing


Thank you all for a lively discussion last month. Our February discussion topic will be policing.

This is a broad topic with a variety of angles at which to approach a discussion, but the two articles we’ve chosen offer some fruitful jumping-off points.

“The Making of the American Police State”

Christian Parenti’s “The Making of the American Police State” traces the development of the police force in the US, focused primarily on the change in policing tactics and incarceration rates in the late 1960s and onward. “The vast majority of the American police state remains firmly within the public sector. But this does not mean the criminal justice buildup has nothing to do with capitalism. At its heart, the new American repression is very much about the restoration and maintenance of ruling class power.” Parts of this article stray from a history of policing, but it provides a thorough thesis on why the current US police state operates the way it does.

“Police and the Liberal Fantasy”

Alex S. Vitale’s “Police and the Liberal Fantasy” addresses how the perceived injustices within the institution of policing has been addressed from a liberal, technocratic point of view, and finds those solutions lacking. “Reforming police forces to make them better trained, more accountable, and less racist are all laudable goals. But they leave intact the basic institutional functions of the police, which have never really been about public safety or crime control….American crime control is a system based around managing the ‘dangerous classes’ that masquerades as a system of justice.”

Both of these articles are opinionated and may bring up objections from you. We hope that you’ll contribute those to the discussion, and we will, as always, work to build a respectful space to discuss these sensitive and pressing topics.

We will be meeting at the Martin Luther King, Jr. branch of the library, which is located at Locust and MLK Drive in the Harambee neighborhood. We hope to see you there!