The concept of American exceptionalism and the case of capital punishment

David Garland

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    This chapter aims to distinguish the various meanings of American exceptionalism and clarifies what we might mean when we invoke this phrase. It also discusses what the American exceptionalism concept implies for the study of crime and punishment. To begin, the chapter first presents a preliminary discussion on the concept and its meanings. It then examines American exceptionalism by means of a close analysis of a specific penal phenomenon that is often invoked as proof that the United States is, indeed, exceptional: America's retention of capital punishment into the twenty-first century. Here, the chapter argues that while America's current stance on capital punishment may be anomalous in international terms, it is not an instance of American exceptionalism.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationAmerican Exceptionalism in Crime and Punishment
    PublisherOxford University Press
    Number of pages18
    ISBN (Electronic)9780190203559
    ISBN (Print)9780190203542
    StatePublished - Dec 21 2017


    • American exceptionalism
    • American exceptionalism concept
    • American political discourse
    • Capital punishment
    • Death penalty
    • International political discourse

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Social Sciences


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