Nothing Works: The Enlightenment, Discourse, and the Failure of Reason
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In this project I study the history of the American penal system. By studying the history of both the structure and ideology behind the penitentiary, I hope to come to a greater understanding of how we have arrived at our current criminal justice policies. I then hope to do both an historical and philosophical account of discourse surrounding the criminal, and use this to help understand how penal policies were enacted. By studying political actors, the media, and the individual citizen, I hope to provide an explanation of our current system of mass incarceration. Further, I plan to demonstrate the Manichean nature of political discourse, and to propose a critical theory of our political system (using the prison system as a specific example) in order to deal with our dangerously over-simplified political rhetoric. By advocating a critically empathic approach to not only crime, but the issue of democracy as a whole, I hope to illustrate how this sort of perspective is necessary for the functioning of any democracy inhabiting the post-modern era.
SubjectCrime, Penitentiary, critical theory, the enlightenment, discourse, empathy, democracy, political theory, political philosophy
Sekula, Henry Thomas (2014). Nothing Works: The Enlightenment, Discourse, and the Failure of Reason. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from