Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Justice Studies

First Advisor

Kevin I. Minor

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies

Second Advisor

Judah Schept

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies

Third Advisor

Travis Linnemann

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies


An extensive literature examines the modern era (1976-present day) of American capital punishment. Some has focused on why the institution persists despite abolition from the rest of the Western world. An example of this is Steiker and Steiker (2016) who argue that judicial rationalization of capital law has helped to legitimate and thus sustain the modern death penalty. However, no work attempts to understand capital punishment or its persistence in America in regards to neoliberalism. To address this void in understanding, I conceptualize Ritzer's four tenets of McDonaldization (predictability, calculability, efficiency, control) as a representation of market rationality, which neoliberalism seeks to insert into various societal spheres (including penality). I examine modern era developments in capital punishment in the United States through the contextual framework of McDonaldization to understand how McDonaldization has served to legitimate the institution. My analysis suggests a transition of the neoliberalized death penalty in the direction of government of government, or what Dean (2010), drawing on Foucault's treatment of governmentality, calls reflexive government.