Penal States and Economic Governmentality

Richard Perry, San Jose State University

The states of the Sun Belt stretch in an arc from the theme parks and planned comunities of Orange County, California to those of Orange County, Florida. Over recent decades, these Sun Belt states have provided the backdrop for a hit-parade of high-profile media-mediated homicide trials (Ted Bundy, Susan Smith, Karla Faye Tucker, Andrea Yages, Richard Allen Davis, Charles Ng, O.J. Simpson, and the Brothers Menendez, among many others). All of these Sun belt states have been much occupied by the theater and politics of state penality -- capital punishment, three-strikes laws, sex-offender on-line databases, etc. During this same period, but much less remarked, these same Sun belt states have also led the way in the proliferation of strategies of private ordering and a very general evolution toward economic governmentality in which traditional state regulatory functions have been strikingly "captured" by a variety of private regimes such as gated communities and kindred forms of planned urbanism and suburbanism, in the mass-marketing of fear/security, and in zip-codified, geo-spatially distributed risk-pooling. One hypothesis to be explored is that the geographic and historical co-occurrence of these apparantely divergent logics of state and economy may not be an altogether random coincidence.

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Updated 05/20/2006