My research specialty is modern U.S. politics, particularly the institutions and policies central to modern American Political Development (APD), especially the ways in which these broker and illustrate the practice of power.
My most recent book addresses these interests through an examination of the federal government’s prosecution of the modern drug war.
In all my work, I draw attention to the ways in which immediate political choices shape the character and mission of American government.
see: Taking Liberties with Religious Liberty, The Washington Monthly, January/February 2016
Paul Gootenberg's review of my book
My response to David Courtwright's review in JAH
Vox interview on Drug Wars in America
Winner, 2010 Louis Brownlow Book Prize
Ta-Nehisi Coates, "The Case for Reparations," June 2014 issue of The Atlantic, which references and quotes from the book
See also: Voice of America, The Army We Have, the Army We Need
"Distress and the response to it are historical expressions; not a wreckage of despair surveyed only by the “angel of history,” but, on the contrary, a vital revelation. The prominent and thoroughly discussed problems of a society say much, but its negotiation of unwanted problems says more. Unanticipated and, in the eyes of many, unimportant, situations of distress unveil techniques at the core of the social apparatus, that which is most common and essential. If we accept the special purchase of “distress” and the larger range of disorder studies of which it is a part, then we have every reason to attach greater priority to the historical experience and status of women who endure hardship. Though their burdens may never be properly weighed, nor their own responsibilities (including culpability) fully explained or understood, their struggles open up a neglected chapter in the story of the state. While it might be pleasant to think that vulnerability and despair elicit compassion, in point of fact they meet with abrupt responses improvised from the tools at hand."
"The space contested between the mighty who cannot be everywhere and the weak who prey upon this absence marks the apposing boundaries, or limits, of state power itself. Rather than jeopardize the idea of their power, states that can, will naturally choose to strengthen their capacity; a state will try to project itself as far as it can. While war with an equal challenges a state to match a threat, a cunning and weaker nuisance challenges a state to fill the gaps in its power. Often it is the pest and not the predator who proves more vexing."
"I believe the future of academic freedom will not be in courts but in budgets; the measure of it not in who is fired but in who is hired; and the guarantee of it not in tenure but in the public outreach and authorization that would take place in tenure's absence."
a collection of thoughts on politics
a space devoted to reflections on Donald Trump
"As an author, it was important to me to come and talk in this library, which through its great work helps to tell this story and many others. By having this discussion here, I believe we are saying something about who we are. And for all that has been lost, for the sacrifices and the struggles acknowledged here today, and for the great many more that went unmentioned but still shape our lives and our world, I want to say that this is still a community that has the compassion, the courage, and an abiding hunger for justice, such that it is able to ask the question, “Who do we want to be?” When we claim our sovereign right for self-governance and voting representation in Congress, we are simultaneously helping to end the grave injustice called the drug war. Conversely and by the same logic, when we insist on methods other than punishment to deal with substance use and addiction, we are reclaiming our rights. Dignity and freedom, justice and power, historical redress and future aspirations, advance together, or not at all."