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Therapeutic and Material hood: Ideology and the Struggle for Meaning in the Illinois Death Penalty Controversy

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This article analyzes the struggle over the ideograph following former Illinois Governor George Ryan's decision to commute all state death sentences in 2003. A therapeutic rendering of the ideograph typified mainstream opposition to Ryan's move. This approach personalized the death penalty at the expense of discussing its social and political implications. In contrast, the discourse of George Ryan and his supporters offered a material hood grounded in political, historical, and economic contextualization. By performing a historical materialist critique of this dialogue, I conclude that rhetorically deploying the figure of a material is an indispensable strategy for the abolitionist movement in that it allows activists to capitalize on the ideological constraints of liberalism while maintaining an awareness of capital punishment's implications in a capitalist society.

Keywords: Death Penalty; George Ryan; Historical Materialism; Ideograph; Therapeutic Rhetoric; Victim

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2007


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