Policing and the Poetics of Everyday Life

Author: Jonathan M. Wender
A former police sergeant draws on philosophy, literature, and art to reveal the profound--indeed poetic--significance of police-citizen encounters
Cloth – $44
Publication Date
Cloth: 11/03/2008
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About the Book

Policing and the Poetics of Everyday Life takes a unique approach to the investigation of several abiding issues at the center of criminological and sociological inquiry by engaging them from a standpoint grounded in philosophy and aesthetics. This study by a self-described “philosopher-cop” develops a phenomenological interpretation of police-citizen encounters, revealing the importance of metaphysics in everyday life through a disclosure of the grounding principles that inform the bureaucratic approach to human predicaments. Jonathan M. Wender, a social philosopher and veteran police sergeant, brings a refreshing new voice to academic and practical discussions of social questions that are otherwise addressed almost exclusively from a narrow scientific or administrative perspective.

This book reflects a conscious attempt to follow the general model of Martin Heidegger’s Zollikon Seminars, in which Heidegger engaged psychiatrists and psychologists in a sustained dialogue aimed at developing their critical awareness of the unexamined philosophical foundations informing their everyday clinical practice. Wender draws on Heidegger to argue that “praxis is poetry” and from this standpoint interprets all social action as intentional creation (or “poiesis”), which by its very nature is intrinsically meaningful. Using an interpretive framework that he calls a “phenomenological aesthetics of encounter,” Wender takes up a number of case studies of police-citizen encounters, including cases of domestic violence, contacts with juveniles, drug-related situations, instances of mental and emotional crisis, and death.

About the Author

Jonathan M. Wender, a former police officer and sergeant of fifteen years, is a lecturer in the department of sociology and the Law, Societies, and Justice Program at the University of Washington.


“[Wender] juxtaposes narratives from his own experience representing different types of police-citizen encounters with representations of social encounters from different artistic and literary genres. The pairings are fascinating.”--Academia


Policing and the Poetics of Everyday Life is an imaginative and unique book. Drawing on the ideas of Heidegger, the text is rich, challenging, clever, seductive, and at times very touching. It includes vignettes of human misery, philosophical discourse, and comparisons and analogies drawn from paintings, poetry, and literature. The scholarship weaves together such a wide range of ideas that most readers will be both awed and amazed.”--Peter K. Manning, author of Policing Contingencies

“A fascinating book that contributes to a variety of contexts including philosophy, sociology, and criminology. Indeed, wherever the issue is challenging the inflexibility of bureaucratic thinking, this book will provoke good discussions.”--Robert Bernasconi, Lillian and Morrie Moss Professor of Philosophy, University of Memphis