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Caught in the Countryside: Race, Class, and Punishment in Rural America

Rethinking Class and Social Difference

ISBN: 978-1-83982-021-2, eISBN: 978-1-83982-020-5

Publication date: 30 September 2020


Discussion of the 2016 electorate has centered on two poles: results of public opinion and voter surveys that attempt to tease out whether racial, cultural, or economic grievances were the prime drivers behind the Trump vote and analyses that tie major shifts in the political economy to consequential shifts in the voting behavior of certain demographic and geographic groups. Both approaches render invisible a major development since the 1970s that has been transforming the political, social, and economic landscape of wide swaths of people who do not reside in major urban areas or their prosperous suburban rings: the emergence and consolidation of the carceral state. This chapter sketches out some key contours of the carceral state that have been transforming the polity and economy for poor and working-class people, with a particular focus on rural areas and the declining Rust Belt. It is meant as a correction to the stilted portrait of these groups that congealed in the aftermath of the 2016 election, thanks to their pivotal contribution to Trump's victory. This chapter is not an alternative causal explanation that identifies the carceral state as the key factor in the 2016 election. Rather, it is a call to aggressively widen the analytical lens of studies of the carceral state, which have tended to focus on communities of color in urban areas.



Gottschalk, M. (2020), "Caught in the Countryside: Race, Class, and Punishment in Rural America", Eidlin, B. and McCarthy, M.A. (Ed.) Rethinking Class and Social Difference (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 37), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 25-52.



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