Mark Jacobs

The Juvenile Justice System is Chaotic and Unable to Change the Outcome of the Lives Entrusted to It: Some Get Out Well and Some Get More Dangerous

Mark Jacobs


Sociology of culture, social theory, social control and juvenile justice, public scandal

Mark Jacobs is Professor of Sociology.  He was graduated by Columbia College, Columbia University, in the eventful year of 1968. After teaching for three years at an intermediate school in Harlem, he pursued his doctorate at the University of Chicago. 

Before coming to Mason in 1984, he taught at the Chicago Police Academy and worked for a decade as the research analyst of the Fairfax Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. He was Visiting Associate Professor of Sociology at Williams College in 1990. From 1992-99, he served as Founding Director of the Ph.D. Program in Cultural Studies at Mason, the first interdisciplinary doctoral program in that field in the United States.

Mark developed a theory of the "no-fault society" in Screwing the System and Making It Work: Juvenile Justice in the No-Fault Society (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1990; reissued in paperback 1993, with excerpts appearing in anthologies about juvenile justice). The pivotal chapter of that book employed a (then) innovative method for the social sciences, exploring what the tragic form of probation officers' narratives reveals about the disorganization of juvenile justice. His current project extends the theory of the no-fault society to the study of public scandal.  He collaborated with Gerald Suttles on Front-Page Economics (University of Chicago Press, 2010), a study of how newspapers reported the financial crashes of 1929 and 1987.   He has also contributed chapters to two handbooks in press (2012) that chart new directions in the discipline:  “Financial Scandals as Symbols and Rituals,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of Finance, edited by Karin Knorr and Alex Preda;  and “The Cultural Sociology of Human Rights” (with Les Kurtz) in The Handbook of Sociology and Human Rights, edited by David Brunsma et al..

In 2005, he and Nancy Weiss Hanrahan co-edited The Blackwell Companion to the Sociology of Culture, featuring original chapters by 28 leading cultural sociologists from around the world. It has been translated into Chinese and Greek.  Also in 2005, he and Lyn Spillman co-edited a special issue of Poetics (an Elsevier journal) entitled Cultural Sociology and Sociological Publics. Just as the introduction to the Blackwell volume traces the emergence of the sociology of culture “beyond the cultural turn,” as evidenced by the contributions to that volume, the introduction to the Poetics issue examines “The Sociology of Culture at the Crossroads of the Discipline.”  In 2009, with Anna Lisa Tota, he co-edited an online “numero monografico” Cultura e Comunicazione — Culture and Communication, a bilingual collaboration between U.S. and Italian cultural sociologists.

Mark is active in a number of professional associations.  From 2008-2009 he was chair of the Section on the Sociology of Culture of the American Sociological Association, and since 2005 he has been a Charter Board Member of the Research Network on the Sociology of Culture of the European Sociological Association. He became vice-chair of that research network in 2011, and will become chair in 2013.  From 2000-2007 he edited Culture, the publication of the Section on the Sociology of Culture of the American Sociological Association.  Since August 2009, he has been founding editor of Cultural Processes, the publication of the Research Network-Culture of the European Sociological Association.  He was the Robin M. Williams Distinguished Lecturer of the Eastern Sociological Society from 2010-2011. 

He has been invited to deliver talks at Chicago, Pennsylvania, Dayton, Harvard, NYU, USC, Yale, IAUV (Venice), CUNY, UVA, the New School, and the Technical University of Berlin.


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