Friday, February 13, 2009

Post #1 for Dissertating.

My goal here, is that if I do nothing else, I catalog on this blog the progress made each day of working. I am going to try to do this at least five days each week (Monday-Sunday). Today is Friday, so I will try to get one more post up before starting on Monday.
My topic is punishment and political theory. By punishment I primarily mean prisons, but occasionally this will extend beyond to greater discussion of the criminal justice system, especially systems of parole and probation.

I hope to use canonical political theories as the hypotheses to test. I know that doesn't make much sense, but I'm at the beginning. I don't really know what the hell I'm doing.

In trying to break down this project, I have come up with this task list so far:
Project 1:
- A historical-material depiction of American punishment.
- Read some history books.
- Compile current statistics.
- If possible:
- Look at contemporary lobbying.
- Look at changes that coincide with the transformation of prison numbers.
This should be an approximately 10-15 pages, no more. Ultimately, this is sort of a book report that will be transformed into the central case for study.

Project 2:
- A review of classical punishment - Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas
- Just do the damn work and draw your conclusions.
- Collect discussions of punishment from the central work of these thinkers, cobble together to make an argument as to what these all are actually saying.

Project 3:
- Do the same for Enlightenment thought
- Beccaria, Locke, early Americans

Project 4:
- Look specifically at race and punishment in American history. Write an essay highlighting the path that this history has taken. Needs to start at slavery, go through black nationalism, and to contemporary gang stuff.

Project 5:
- A Marxist view of punishment.
- I need to essentially make an argument about how Marx and orthodox Marxists (Lukacs will probably be of great significance here) deal with punishment. This obviously turns a lot of law itself on its head, but what do Marxists want to do with people who have killed their neighbors?

Project 6:
- Foucault, method & relevance.
- I need to analyze Foucault's method, make an argument about what it ignores and what it successfully synthesizes. I am pretty sure this argument is largely going to be about the need for materialist inquiry, but I suppose I'll get there eventually.

Project 7:
- Continental philosophy
- Kant, Hegel, etc.
- They may fit into the Enlightenment paper. We shall see.
When I've done all this, I need to pull together an argument. All along the way I need to be asking questions and developing hypotheses to insert/test as I synthesize the rest.

I don't really know why I'm having such a hard time getting moving on any of this.

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