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Book Chapter

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This chapter examines the sociological roots of the current problems in contemporary policing. Employing Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of field, habitus, capital, and doxa the chapter begins by highlighting the cultural mechanisms that maintain and reproduce ineffective policing practices. In an example from Wilmington, Delaware in the United States, the authors show how the ‘game’ on the field of policing focusses primarily on law enforcement outputs. This game shapes the worldview and dispositions of officers (habitus). Police officers are recognised and rewarded (capital) for acting in ways that align with the game’s logic. This process creates the condition doxa, in which the socially constructed and changeable field of policing is mistaken for natural way it should be. This chapter also considers why perspectives on police reform diverge and what this means for the future of policing in an age of reform.


Author accepted manuscript version of a chapter published by Springer in:

Nolan, James J., Joshua C. Hinkle, and Zsolt Molnar. 2021. “Changing the Game: A Sociological Perspective on Police Reform.” In Policing in an Age of Reform: An Agenda for Research and Practice, edited by James J. Nolan, Frank Crispino, and Timothy Parsons, 17–32. Cham: Springer International Publishing.