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Policing the poorest: On public assistance and state surveillance.


A big part of the focus is this construction - that is certainly not new to the last four decades but has doubtlessly intensified in the Reagan and into the Clinton era - of people who participate in public assistance as not just lazy or shiftless, but actively mendacious, parasitic, as trying to victimize the body politic. This idea that these people need to be controlled and punished, and their vulnerability makes it easier to accomplish that goal.

Sociologist Spencer Headworth on the mechanisms of surveillance and control placed over poor people enrolled in US welfare and food assistance programs, and his book Policing Welfare: Punitive Adversarialism in Public Assistance from University of Chicago Press.

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Spencer Headworth

Spencer Headworth is assistant professor of sociology at Purdue University.


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