Political Science 7

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Classical Texts Discussions Questions


We will discuss thirteen classical texts of political philosophy as found in our Political
Philosophy textbook. These texts will be the subject of the possible essay questions on the
two course exams. Before each class, please write responses to the provided questions on a
separate piece(s) of paper (responses must be typed). l will collect these responses at the end
of class on each of our classical text lecture days. Completion of these questions will comprise
your 20 percent participation grade for the course. Late responses will not be accepted. If you
will be absent on the due-day, you may email me the responses; however, you must do so
before class.
Responses for each question must be at least two sentences long; you are welcome (but not
required) to write more. The more you write, the better prepared you will be for the exam
essay questions.
Classical Text it 7 Crime and Punishment
Angela Davis’ 5 “Are Prisons Obsolete?” (2003)

1. Why has “prioritization” in the US increased dramatically, according to Davis? What
ideological function” do prisons play, in her view? Why do we take prisons for granted
and assume that they can only be reformed rather than abolished, in her view?

2. What is the relationship between the US prison system and racism, according to Davis?
What similarities does she draw between imprisonment and enslavement in the US?
What historical relationships between the institutions of slavery and incarceration does
she also observe?

3. How does Davis characterize the history of prisons? What forms of punishment did
prisons replace? Why did advocates of prisons see themselves as humane reformers?
Why were wrong, according to Davis?

4. How does gender, or gender stereotypes and expectations, structure the US prison
system, especially for female prisoners, according to Davis? What are the results, in her
view? How does such sexism often intersect with racism and classism in the US prison
system, for Davis?

5. What is the prison-industrial-complex, according to Davis? How did it emerge, in her
account? What have been its consequences? How has it worked to sever punishment
from crime, in her view?

6. Why is the abolishment of prisons a real possibility, according to Davis? What
alternatives to prison does Davis suggest?


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