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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jonathan M Wender
LSJ 480
Seattle Campus

Policing Modern Society

Explores institution and practices of police in context of the rise of modern society, and considers the expanding presence of the police in everyday modern life. Topics include: history of policing, changing roles of police, police reform, and ethical dilemmas intrinsic to the police function.

Class description

At root, modern police work involves armed bureaucrats encountering their fellow human beings in various states of crisis and predicament. These crises and predicaments range from relatively minor situations such as petty thefts and noisy neighbors, to the overwhelming gravity of violently disintegrating personal relationships and unforeseen death. While many of the situations that the police encounter have changed little over time, the institution and role of present-day policing are fundamentally shaped by the essential impersonality of modern social relations. More generally, although the police have existed in one form or another for thousands of years, policing as we know it today is inseparably related to the rise of modernity and the modern state. The purpose of our course is to explore this complex relationship between policing and modern society. In order to do so, we will look beyond the obvious law enforcement function of the police, and focus our attention on how policing and modern society ‘co-produce’ each other. In its role of controlling the anonymous urban space created by the rapid expansion of civil society, policing in its present form both enforces and perpetuates the social conditions out of which it emerges. As the demand for administrative artifice continues to expand apace with the disintegration of social relations caused by the inordinate pressures of civil society, the police are constantly called upon to step into the breach. Thus, despite rhetoric extolling the role of the police as “problem solvers? and “community builders,? we will ask whether much of the growing involvement of the police in everyday life might be better understood as a hollow substitution of bureaucratic authority for organic social institutions and relations dependent on tradition and custom. Although there are no prerequisites for this course, please be aware that expectations and workload are similar to a first-year graduate or law school class. Therefore, you should enroll only if you are prepared to be actively involved in a collaborative, rigorous learning process founded on thoughtful dialogue and sustained, interdisciplinary reflection.

Student learning goals

• To understand the interrelation of theory and practice in the context of modern policing.

• To understand the nature and role of policing.

• To improve your ability to be a critical, deliberative reader.

• To improve your ability to write well.

• To improve your ability to engage actively in civic dialogue on controversial and urgent public issues.

• To improve your ability to think with rigor, passion, and imagination.

General method of instruction

Seminar-style interactive lectures.

Recommended preparation

None, though students should understand that this course will be taught at a first-year law/graduate school level.

Class assignments and grading

Open book essay exams, annotated bibliography, term paper, seminar presentation. Specific assignments will be finalized in the syllabus.

Weighting of various assignments TBD.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Jonathan M Wender
Date: 08/20/2013