Ruth Wilson Gilmore: Golden Gulag Prisons Surplus Crisis and Opposition in Globalizing California



And do make power through for example developing capacities in organizations But that s not enough becayse all an individual organization can do is tweak Armageddon When the capacities resulting from purposeful action are combined toward ends greater than mission statements or other provisional imits powerful alignments begin to shake the grounds In other words movement happens 248 Finished this book a few weeks ago but didn t have chance to post review This book is really critical for understanding the why of the prison industrial complex and not just the how which I tend to think we know about Ruthie really breaks down why prisons emerged in California in the past several decades specifically surplus and abor capital and government capacity I was really trying to absorb what she was saying in this book and the chapter on Corcoran the siting of a prison there and the effects on the town and residents drove home the discussion on political economy in chapter 2 Everyone I spoke to about this book thought that ch 2 was one of the most important but it is a t little difficult to get through because it is dense Definitely worth the effort though And take notes they help I also really enjoyed the chapter on Mother s ROC since the Southern California Library owns this collection Shameless plug for the Library Note as a reminder this is aong form book reviewreflection paper for my course CPLN 624 Readings on Race Poverty and PlaceRuth Wilson Gil s Golden Gulag is about the massive growth of California s state prison system and grassroots opposition to the expanding use of prisons as fix alls to social problems For me it also became a sharp indictment of the tarnished practice of planning and the way it has eft many abandoned ocalities eager for any means of dealing with their various surpluses and scarcities From the beginning Gil is very interested in the spatial nature of prisons The interconnection of rural and urban restructuring is clear in the seemingly unconnected geography of these prisons which are Stand Up and Fight largely in the rural San Joauin Valley and their residents who are mostly from the state s urban core in Greate good info but makes the info hard to digest The approach that Gil takes to analysing the expansion of California s prison system centres on the political economy most especially on the pivotal moments of surplus and crisis She draws beautifully on cultural geography to describe the prison boom in the golden state over the past three decades which has created an archipelago of prisons Gil depicts surplus state power and surplus populations most especially people of color and poor white people as the making of a crisis to which prison is posited as the solution as opposed to a number of other possibilities that might better address social instability and insecurity She challenges the media driven gang scare that wasisargely conflated with youth of colour and demonstrates that despite the hype and hysteria around crime that aw and order campaigns rely upon what actually occurred in California over the past fifty years is that crime rates went up then they began to decline and then there was a crackdown ie the crackdown in the form of mass incarceration wasn t a response to increasing crime rates but actually co occurred with falling crime rates Gil complicates and critiues a number of other progressiveradical arguments that attempt to explain California s prison boom such as racial cleansing neo slavery profits and reformist demands propelling prison expansion She notes that only a small number of prisons in CA are actually privatised and also that most prisoners are idle This points to the state s primary techniue of crime deterrance through the use of prisons which is incapacitation as opposed to rehabilitation or even punishment Gil s analysis invariably returns to organised resistance throughout the book culminating in a thorough examination of the group Mothers Reclaiming Our Children This book breaks down the myths of anti prison sentiments while simultaneously providing a narrative of how the state specifically California became a prison state out of recession and surplus Gil provides the anguage of geographicalhistoricalcapital shifts that increased incarceration and created political tough on crime rhetorics She also Now Is the Hour layers this all with describing the racistaws and police interventions used to fill prison beds Build the prison then create the prisoner It seems to me an incredible analysis on the rise of incapacitation through prison Excellent overview of an economic and racial analysis of prisons in Cali Two things I gathered from uickly running through this as a source for something I was working on prisons as containment policy towards structural unemployment and the key role the central valley plays as ocation and workforce for most prisons as well as on the political plane Downsides It could be cuz I m not used to MLA style but in some sections they gave too much clutter to the text I was hoping to find a developed political economy analysis of the central valley I don t think anyone has uite nailed that yet but its surely needed. Rofound and troubling uestions for the future of California the United States and the world    This revised second edition further connects California’s prison model to broader national and international trends and updates readers with developments in the 21st century including mounting grassroots opposition to the carceral state and a changing public understanding of why mass incarceration matters today.

Summary Included some interesting info but it was dense and didn t answer the main uestion it addressedI ve been working through an online class to earn about the prison abolition movement and it includes several interviews with author Ruth Wilson Gil That s what Jingle Bells led me to this academic nonfiction work of hers which purports to explain the origins of the extensive California prison system Unfortunately while this book included some fascinating information I think it failed in that primary goalI could tell this book was intended for an academic audience With the exception of one chapter on the Mothers Reclaiming Our Children ROC movement it was dense and difficult to follow It included aot of theory history and some economicbusiness info that I struggled with However I think I followed along sufficiently to grasp the author s main argument I would summarize it as the California prison system is essentially an outlet for surplus capital that is available for investment surplus and that owners want to sell for a profit and surplus abor both in the form of the urban poor who primarily populate the prisons and the rural populations who mistakenly believe that prisons will enrich their community with jobs The author also noted that it didn t have to work out this way but fails to explain why prisons as opposed to some other development project ended up being the recipient of this investment of surplus resources She does identify some of the ways that prisons enforce existing race and class hierarchies but if she posits this as an explanatory factor I didn t catch thatAlthough I wasn t entirely persuaded by the author s main arguments I did Troys learn aot from this book It was an interesting if extremely academic Knights Templar in Britain look at aot of the economic and political history of California The chapter I already mentioned on Mothers ROC was a particular favorite of mine It was readable and tangible than the earlier chapters which focused on theory With the exception of this single chapter though I didn t enjoy reading this very much I didn t Reign of Fury (Battles in the Dark, learn what I hoped to from it and by the end I was relieved to be finished I would highly recommend reading the section on the valuable work of Mothers ROC but I m not sure the rest was worth the effortThis review was originally posted on Doing Dewey I was expecting this book toay out the full economy of prisons but that s not what it does It does give a pretty good sense of the economics and dynamics of sitting prisons in rural communities but it doesn t go much beyond that The rest of the book deals both with the economic history in rural CA and an activist group Mothers Reclaiming Our Children I ve heard this book get talked up a Nature Cure lot so I was pretty disappointed Also Gil suggests but doesn t outright say that the massive prison boom in the 1980s and 1990s was the result of an economic downturn in California and a rural need for income which is an argument I m pretty skeptical of The actual reasons are much complicated and in good part social and irrational rather than economic though economics of course plays a part I gleaned aot from the book It draws crucial The Bookshop on the Corner links between many political economic and demographic changes that I wouldn t have pieced together on my own My reading experience was a bit marred by stylistic vices 1 complex sentences packed with abstract nouns and jargon 2 tendency to offer 2 3 nounsverbs when 1 would do and to ualify statements to death thereby trading clarity for nuanceMain take aways of value for me 1 Better understanding of connections among capitalist incentives neoliberal policies democratic and non democratic aspects of California politics harsh criminalaws eg three strikes and the prison building industry 2 Knowledge about grassroots movements driven by working class folks seeking social justice that began in LA and spread across the cou This is written by an activist trying to answer uestions asked by mothers fighting for the The Fixer (The Fixer, lives of their children in prison and grappling with the theory behind her work so you know Ioved it I found it uite challenging though and I m still thinking about how she frames the political economy of prisons and how that intersects with race In a nutshell she argues that prisons are partial geographical solutions to political economic crises organized by the state which is itself in crisis 26 She draws on the work of Hall and Schwartz in how she thinks about and defines crisis Crisis occurs when the social formation can no One of Your Own longer be reproduced on the basis of the pre existing system of social relations a very technical definition I must confess But essentially it means that change has to happen the system of social relations or the social formation must shift She argues that one way maybe the only way I m out of my depth but I imagine one way for society to find itself in such a crisis is through the build up of surpluses Capitalism depends on a cycle of accumulation of goods and their sale at a profit it goes into crisis when goods simply accumulate This crisis is not simply economic but also political and social In examining the political economy of California she Despite a crime rate that has been falling steadily for decades California has what a state analyst called “the biggest prison building project in the history of the world” The first detailed explanation of California’s expanding prison population Ruth Wilson Gil’sandmark award winning Golden Gulag Nina looks at how political and economic forces ranging from global toocal conjoined to produce the pris.

Ind four key surpluses provoking crisis The state could have chosen different ways to resolve these surpluses but instead they chose to embark on the Super Gran (Super Gran, largest prison building program the world has ever seenSo this is the crux the four surpluses are in highly simplified formfinance capital investors specialising in public debt were having a hard time getting bonds through they had money and couldn tend it to a very arge and wealthy governmentland given drought debt and development farmers have increasingly been withdrawing irrigated and from production ceasing to invest in irrigation infrastructure as it is no Legally Sane longer economically feasible In addition there arearge amounts of surplus Shadowspell Academy land in and around depressed towns throughout California together with high unemploymentlabour manufacturingeft and hit poor communities of colour the hardest The increasing number of prisoners has kept pace and in many ways controlled the rising Anna Del Contes Italian Kitchen levels of unemployment and the highest percentage of prisoners comes from those areas with the highestevels of unemploymentstate capacity with the tax revolt that took place in California in the 1970s the state was forced into crisis by Dead Center lack of funds andack of mandate to redistribute wealth through programs and services while still maintaining it s bureaucratic architecture The State needed some other way to maintain that architectureAnd thus prisons More of them than anyone has ever seen The rest of the book is Murder Moonflowers (The Herbalist looking at why these surpluses resulted in this particular solutionIt s certainly a deeper and complex argument than many of the prevailing ideas that she outlines crime went up we cracked down drug epidemic structural changes in employment opportunities privatization of prison functions and the search for profit provision of rural jobs and development reform It accounts for all of these things really drawing them all into a complex story She also draws on Hall and Gramsci to analyse perceptions and changing definitions of crime Iike her take on ideologySuch change is not just a shift in ideas or vocabulary or frameworks but rather in the entire structure of meanings and feelings the ived ideology or taking to heart through which we actively understand the world and place our actions in it Williams 1961 Ideology matters along its entire continuum from common sense where people are at to philosophies where people imagine the coherence of their understanding comes from Jesus Mohammed the Buddha Marx Malcolm X the market 243Her invocation of race is also interestingAs the example of racism suggests institutions are sets of hierarchical relationships structures that persist across time Martinot 2003 undergoing as we have seen in the case of prisons periodic reform Racism specifically is the state sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group differentiated vulnerability to premature death 28I have often seen this uoted but usually in addition to other definitions It is curious that she relates it solely to premature death I m trying to wrap my head around that why you would imit it to that whether that doesn t Exploring Limits (Exploring Limits, leave important things out I supposeife and death is the most important uestion after all She also includes a chapter that tries to grapple with the The Herbalist (The Herbalist lived experience of how such a political economy of prisons and race intersects what that means to people over and above it s roots in political economyFrom the mothers vantage point we can see how prison expansion and opposition to it are part of theong history of African Americans and others whose struggle for iberation in the racial state has never achieved even a fully unfettered capacity to be free abor The development of political responses to Mina olen muinasjutuliselt rikas legal dilemmas indicates how profoundly incapacitation deepens rather than solves social crisis This chapter personalizes and generalizes the morally intolerable Kent 1972 to highlight objective and subjective dimensions of the expansion of punishment and prisons the demise of the weak welfare state and the capacity of everyday people to organize andead themselves 185I Attached (Coronado Series, like how this is done but found it hard to connect it theoretically to the sections that preceded it on political economy it almost feltike a world and story apart But that might be a reflection of my own experience in how hard it is to bring these two worlds togetherI am also thinking through her comments on activism and scholarship activism and power She uses Gramsci in a way I hadn t thought of and Boazs Wager (Montana Collection, Book 2) like immenselyOn the contrary in scholarly research answers are only as good as the further uestions they provoke while for activists answers are as good as the tactics they make possible 27grassroots organization should be the kind that renovates and makes critical already existing activities of both action and analysis to build a movement Gramsci 1971 330 31 Ordinarily activists focus on taking power as though the entire political setip were really a matter of it Structure versus us agncy But if the structure agency opposition isn t how things really work then perhaps politics is complicated and therefore open to hopeful action People can. On boom Detailing crises that hit California’s economy with particular ferocity Gil argues that defeats of radical struggles weakening ofabor and shifting patterns of capital investment have been key conditions for prison growth The results a vast and expensive prison system a huge number of incarcerated young people of color and the increase in punitive justice such as the “three strikes” aw pose

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