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The Six-Shooter State
Public and Private Violence in American Politics


  • Date Published: December 2018
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108454148

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About the Authors
  • American violence is schizophrenic. On the one hand, many Americans support the creation of a powerful bureaucracy of coercion made up of police and military forces in order to provide public security. At the same time, many of those citizens also demand the private right to protect their own families, home, and property. This book diagnoses this schizophrenia as a product of a distinctive institutional history, in which private forms of violence - vigilantes, private detectives, mercenary gunfighters - emerged in concert with the creation of new public and state forms of violence such as police departments or the National Guard. This dual public and private face of American violence resulted from the upending of a tradition of republican governance, in which public security had been indistinguishable from private effort, by the nineteenth-century social transformations of the Civil War and the Market Revolution.

    • Presents an integrated and cohesive account of American violence over time, while focused on particular moments or cases, and should appeal both to historians interested in developmental change and social scientists interested in the testing of particular mechanisms in case study form
    • Uses a variety of new analytic techniques but in an uncomplicated and straightforward way, built around narrative case studies, which allows general readers interested in the question of violence in American politics to appreciate some of the fundamental scholarly debates about the state
    • Provides an institutional account for America's 'violent exceptionalism' and advances the debate past study of law and culture by showing how key features of America's institutional past have made private and public violence seem compatible
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This fascinating book analyses the relationship between, on the one hand, the officers and institutions who wield violence in the name of the state and, on the other, the people and social groups who hold dominant positions in society. If these two things do not coincide, the result is political and social instability. That sobering conclusion is supported by a wealth of evidence arising from a prodigious amount of innovative research.' Richard Bensel, Gary S. Davis Professor, Cornell University, New York

    'Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of figures, tables, a list of abbreviations, and a ten page index, 'The Six-Shooter State' is a seminal work of outstanding scholarship and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Social Issues collections.' Library Bookwatch

    'The research is impressive, and the historical information included in the volume is extensive.' J. P. Dunn, Choice

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2018
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108454148
    • length: 284 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 154 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.42kg
    • contains: 18 b/w illus. 19 tables
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Jurisdictional decoupling as institutional change
    3. Bandits, elites, and vigilantes in antebellum Illinois
    4. Pinkertons and police in antebellum Chicago
    5. Racist vigilantism as reform in reconstruction Louisiana
    6. The violent careers of American gunfighters
    7. Conclusion

  • Author

    Jonathan Obert, Amherst College, Massachusetts
    Jonathan Obert is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Amherst College, where he has taught since 2014. He has published articles on violence, organizational change, and state formation in the US at Law & Social Inquiry, Perspectives on Politics, Studies in American Political Development, and the Journal of Policy History, among others.

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