The Myth of Mob Rule: Violent Crime and Democratic Politics

Event date
4 February 2016
Event time
15:30 - 17:00
Oxford week
Old Library - All Souls College
Professor Lisa Miller, Department of Political Science, Rutgers University
Please join us at 3:00pm for tea and biscuits for a 3:30pm start.

Chaired by Dr Ben Bradford.

Can majorities be entrusted to support rational policy ideas on issues like crime and security, or do they inevitably descend into proverbial ‘mob rule,’ demanding irrational and mercurial policies, even when actual risk is low? Drawing on a comparative case study, I suggest that large publics in modern democracies are far more attuned to real risk than is often imagined and that the range of policies the public will support when issues like crime are politically salient is much broader than scholars assume.  By comparing the public and political salience of crime across many countries, I illustrate the strong relationship between rates of serious violence and public and political concern about crime, and highlight the importance of political institutions in shaping policy responses. In particular, I argue that the most punitive nation in the world -- the United States -- suffers from a democratic deficit rather than a surplus, and that it is this deficit that leads to high crime and high rates of imprisonment.

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