Police Are Our Government: Politics, Political Science, and the Policing of Race-Class Subjugated Communities

Joe Soss, Vesla Weaver

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

213 Scopus citations


Against the backdrop of Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter movement, we ask what the American politics subfield has to say about the political lives of communities subjugated by race and class. We argue that mainstream research in this subfield-framed by images of representative democracy and Marshallian citizenship-has provided a rich portrait of what such communities lack in political life. Indeed, by focusing so effectively on their political marginalization, political scientists have ironically made such communities marginal to the subfield's account of American democracy and citizenship. In this article, we provide a corrective by focusing on what is present in the political lives of such communities. To redress the current imbalance and advance the understandings of race and class in American politics, we argue that studies of the liberal-democratic "first face" of the state must be complemented by greater attention to the state's more controlling "second face." Focusing on policing, we seek to unsettle the mainstream of a subfield that rarely inquires into governmental practices of social control and the ways "race-class subjugated communities" are governed through coercion, containment, repression, surveillance, regulation, predation, discipline, and violence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)565-591
Number of pages27
JournalAnnual Review of Political Science
StatePublished - May 11 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.


  • Carceral state
  • Citizenship
  • Criminal justice
  • Governance
  • Marginalization
  • Racial politics


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