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Governing the Dangerous

Governing the Dangerous

Dangerousness, law and social change

By John Pratt


The question of dangerousness - how it should be defined and punished, and the ethical dilemmas associated with it - is a recurring theme of modern policy.

In this powerful and important book, John Pratt addresses this question by explaining how dangerousness first became an object of penological discourse and why it has since remained so. Pratt sees the late 19th century as an important turning point; earlier concerns about the threat posed by the dangerous classes give way to a new set of concerns about dangerous criminals. He traces change to the present, identifying ‘Three Strikes’ laws and related initiatives as the latest in a long line of attempts to govern the dangerous.

Drawing on material from Australia, New Zealand, England, the United States and Canada, the author argues that dangerousness is not a quality possessed by certain groups of offenders. Rather, it is a particular creation of modernity, possessing a life force that began when the concept of risk and its attendant strategies of management found their way into the social fabric.

Ultimately, the dilemma of dangerousness is seen as political rather than ethical. Which to choose? The burdens of state regulation necessary to keep dangerousness under control? Or, intolerable license that reducing the role of the state gives to it?


Introduction: risk, governance, dilemma
Dangerousness: the birth of a concept
Welfare and security
Psychology, governance and sex crime
From dangerous to inadequate
Self-governance, neo-liberalism and the renaissance of dangerousness
The care of the self
The neo-liberal state and dangerousness
Living with freedom

Bibliography/ Index

Published January 1998
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781862872677
Australian RRP $44.00
International Price $42.00
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Criminology & Policing - Criminology
Criminology & Policing - Penology & Sentencing
Law - Legal History

Australasian Studies in Criminology Series

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